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Boof(s by the author 

The Secret of Easter Is/and 

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First Printing, July, 
Second Printing, August, 1958 
Third Printing, September, 
Fourth Printing, October, 19,8 
Fifth Printing, November, 

A^H-A^w, originally published in Norwegian by Gyldcndal Norsk Forlag, O*lo f with 
simultaneous editions in Swedish, Danish, and Finnish O Thor Hcycrdahl, 1957. 
English edition published in London, O George Allen & Unvvin Ltd., 1958. 



His Majesty 
King Olav V 















MY AKU-AKU SAYS . . . 351 


INDEX 379 



The Greenland trawler. 

Members of the expedition at lunch aboard the ship. 

Thor Junior. 
Little Anette. 
The camp at Anakena. 

Measuring an Easter Island head. 

Father Sebastian Englert. 

Captain Arnaldo Curti. 

Two Pakarati brothers narrating legends. 

Between pages 

Topknots abandoned in the shallows. 

Stone giants on the slope of the volcano Rano Rarakiu 

Proud features chiseled from stone. 

Ed and the doctor at Orongo. 

Between pages 

Naked stone bodies appeared as we excavated. 
A man feels small beside an Easter Island statue. 
Natives demonstrate the use of reed boats. 

Stone giants lie with their noses in the sand. 

Like Snow White's dwarfs, we go to work in the quarry. 

The end view of an uncompleted figure. 
A half-finished giant in the mountain wall. 

A giant on a keel. 

Stone hand picks were the sculptors' tools. 

Between pages 

Between pages 

Completed statues lay high up in the mountain. 
An old statue from the island's earliest period. 

The kneeling giant gazes up into the sky. 

The kneeling giant, as he emerged from the rubble. 

Between pages 

A stone giant with a ship on his chest. 

A native fishing. 

Bill beside the red pillar statue of Vinapu. 

Ed with the stone head found at Orongo. 

Exploration underground. 

A night ceremony, 

A statue being made in the quarry. 

Between pages 

Raising a statue with three poles. 
The ever-growing stone tower. 

The last day before the stone giant is righted. 

A landmark at Anakena, visible far out to sea. 
The earliest wall of the ahu at Vinapu. 

Between pages 
1 92-93 

Lazarus and I before the giant the long-ears raised. 

A group of long-ears. 
A giant on the move. 

Between pages 

The first secret cave I visited. 
Enlique's cave. 

Cave stones: a "key" stone, a three-masted reed boat, a 
slab with ideograms, a long-eared head, and a foot. 

Cave stones: a beast with a human head, a bearded 
face, a mythical whale, a woman with a fish, and 
the profile of a head. 


Cave stones: an ordinary image and a magic guardian. 
Juan the Wizard, Tumu, and Andres Haoa. 

A hula evening at Tahiti. 

The song of the South Seas. 
Heaven or Hell? 

Between pages 

Between pages 

Rapa Id's green-clad hills. 

Men of the island off to excavate Morongo Uta. 

Women of Rapa Id off to work at excavating. 
Lea, leading the vahines up to Morongo Uta. 

Women working at Morongo Uta. 
The men call off their strike. 

The work of ancient man, Morongo Uta. 
The preparation of popoi. 

Women at Rapa Id packing taro roots. 

The largest building ever discovered in Polynesia. 

Bill, Yvonne, and I plant the expedition flag. 

Between pages 


Map of Easter Island. 

Easter Island statues at the time of La Perouse. 

A long-ear at the time of Captain Cook. 

A bird-man and a long-eared ghost-man. 

An Easter Island native with his pora. 

Rongo-rongo ideograms. 

Map of the Southeast Pacific Ocean. 

End papers 







Nor did I know what an a{u-a{u was, so I could hardly 
have used one if I had had it. 

Every sensible person on Easter Island has an at(u-a1(u. I too got 
one there, but at the moment I was organizing a voyage to that very 
place, so I did not possess one. Perhaps that was why arranging the 
journey was so difficult. Getting home again was much easier. 

Easter Island is the loneliest inhabited place in the world. The near- 
est solid land the islanders can see is above, in the firmament, the moon 
and the planets. They have to travel farther than any other people to see 
that there really is land yet closer. Therefore, living nearest the stars, 
they know more names of stars than of towns and countries in our own 

On this remote island, east of the sun and west of the mooa, man- 
kind once had one of its most curious ideas. No one knows who had it, 
and no one knows why. For it happened before Columbus led white 

men to America, and in so doing opened the gate for voyages of explo- 
ration out into the great unknown Pacific. While our own race still be- 
lieved that the world ended at Gibraltar, there were other great navi- 
gators who knew better. In advance of their time, they plowed 
unknown seas in the immense watery void off the desolate west coast 
of South America. Far out they found land. The loneliest little island 
in the world. They landed there, whetted their stone adzes, and set 
about one of the most remarkable engineering projects of ancient times. 
They did not build fortresses and castles, or dams and wharves. They 
made gigantic stone figures in man's likeness, as tall as houses and as 
heavy as boxcars, and they dragged them in great numbers across coun- 
try and set them up erect on huge stone terraces all over the island. 

How did they manage this, before the age of technique? No one 
knows. But there stood the figures they had desired, towering into the 
sky, while the people fell. And they buried their dead at the feet of the 
colossi they themselves had created. They raised great statues and 
buried their dead. Then one day the blows of the adz on the rock face 
fell silent. A sudden silence, for tools were left lying and many of the 
figures were only half-finished. The mysterious sculptors disappeared 
into the dark mists of antiquity. 

What happened ? Yes, what had happened on Easter Island ? 
I bent over my desk for the thousandth time and let my eyes sail 
over the large-scale chart of the Pacific, that deceiving sheet of paper on 
which the islands bulk large in capital letters and you travel with the 
ruler as easily up as down the ocean currents. I was beginning to know 
this ocean now. 1 There in the wild valleys of the Marquesas group, just 
south of the Equator, I had lived for a year in native fashion and 
learned to see nature with Polynesian eyes. There, too, I had heard for 
the first time old Tei Tetua's stories of the man-god Tiki. And down 
in the Society Islands, among the palms of Tahiti, the great chief Teri- 
ieroo had once been my teacher. He had adopted me as his son and 
taught me to respect his race as my own. And there, on the coral reef 
in the Tuamotu group, we had landed with the Kon-Tity raft, and 

J The route of the Kon-Tify raft and the sites and dates of Thor Hcycrdahl's former 
scientific visits arc noted on the map found on pages 360-61. 


Detectives Off to the End of the World 

learned that even the salt sea has its unceasing treadmill, the route from 
South America out to those distant islands* However lonely the islands 
were, they all lay within the natural range of the Incas' old balsa rafts. 

And from over there, from the dry cactus forests of the Galapagos 
group, I had other strange memories. We had nearly landed up there 
with the Kon-Tify raft, so I went later with another expedition to see 
what secrets this remote group of islands concealed. In a fairy-tale land, 
among giant lizards and the world's largest tortoises, I had taken part 
in collecting a veritable Aladdin's lamp, which lay crushed to frag- 
ments, buried in an old rubbish heap among the cactus trees. One had 
only to rub the dirty old fragments to see broad sails on the eastern 
horizon. It was the Inca Indians' mighty forerunners that we saw, steer- 
ing out with their rafts from the coast of South America into the wild 
sea. They crossed the sea once, twice, many times, and came ashore on 
the waterless cliffs of the Galapagos group. There they encamped, and 
as time passed they broke one after another of the curious jars they had 
on board, jars the like of which no other civilized people in the whole 
world has made. It was fragments of these jars we dug up at the old 
settlements, and they played the part of Aladdin's lamp, reflecting their 
owners' maritime feats and casting their light right into the darkness 
of prehistoric time. 

No archaeologist had previously investigated the Galapagos group, 
and therefore no one had found anything. We were the first to believe 
that the Indians had sailed so far out to sea, and thus we went out and 
searched. The archaeologists Reed and Skjolsvold and I had dug up 
over two thousand of these ancient fragments, from 130 different jars. 
Leading scientists in the United States analyzed the fragments, as de- 
tectives examine fingerprints, and were able to establish that a thousand 
years before Columbus opened the door into America the Incas' fore- 
runners had thrown open the door of the Pacific and paid repeated visits 
to the remote Galapagos Islands. 2 

These were die oldest traces of man that had so far been established 

*For further details sec: Thor Heyerdahl and Arne Skjolsvold, "Archaeological Evidence 
of Pre-Spanish Visits to the Galapagos Islands," published in 1956 as Mem. No. 12 of the 
Society for American Archaeology. 

on the real ocean islands of the Pacific. They announced that before the 
islands of Polynesia were inhabited, and long before the Vikings set out 
on their voyage to Iceland, the ancient people of South America had 
begun to explore the Pacific and had gained a foothold on islands as far 
from their own coast as Iceland is from Norway. They had fished there, 
planted native cotton, and left many traces at their settlements before 
they forsook the inhospitable and waterless islands for an unknown 

From the Galapagos the same fierce ocean current rolls on un- 
checked, swifter than the Amazon and a hundred times as wide, till, 
only a few weeks later, it rolls its watery masses in among the South 
Sea Islands. 

An uncertain little dot, with a note of interrogation beside it, was 
marked on the chart out in the middle of the ocean current. Was it 
land ? We had steered right over the spot with the Kon-Ti{i raft and 
discovered that it was only eddies. But far to south, where the southern- 
most branches of the current turn off, lay another little dot, and this had 
a name, Easter Island. I had not been there, and it was there I wanted 
to go. I had always wondered how prehistoric men got themselves to that 
desolate spot. Now, for a change, I was wondering how I should get 
myself there. It was rather irrational to try to solve the travel problems 
of a Stone Age people when I could not solve my own. 

As the Kon-Tikj drifted with the current far to the north, we had sat 
on deck in the moonlight and talked about the mystery of Easter Island. 
At that time I had secretly dreamed of coming back some day to the 
eastern Pacific and going ashore on that lonely island. Now I was trying 
to make the dream a reality. 

Easter Island belongs to Chile. A warship goes there just once a year 
with provisions for the inhabitants. Then she turns round and goes back 
to Chile, which is as far away as Spain is from Canada. Easter Island has 
no other regular communication with the outside world. 

The warship offered no solution to my travel problems. To explore 
Easter Island in a week, while the warship lay waiting, was of course 
futile. To be left on the island for a whole year with diligent scientists 
was an equally senseless plan, for they might find after a month that 


Detectives Off to the End of the World 

there was nothing more to do there. It was possible to get there on a 
balsa raft from South America, drifting with the current and wind, but 
with such a craft I might not get any archaeologists to go with me, and 
there was no point in trying to explore Easter Island without them. 

So I must get a boat of my own, a kind of expedition ship. But there 
was no harbor at Easter Island, no reliable anchorage, and no access to a 
wharf. And there was no oil or water supply. The ship, therefore, must 
be large enough to carry, in addition to all our supplies, oil and water for 
the voyage out and home again, and for mobility during our stay. She 
began at once to be quite a big ship. And suppose the archaeologists 
found that there was nothing to dig for. In that case it would be poor 
planning to have come all the way to Easter Island in our own ship un- 
less we could use her to go on to other unexplored South Sea Islands. 
Well, there were enough of them in the eastern part of Polynesia. A 
whole string of exciting islands lay awaiting excavation right in that 
part of the Pacific where the ocean current rolls in from the Galapagos 
and South America. 

About voyages to remote seas I have always consulted my friends 
Thomas and Wilhelm, of the Fred Olsen Line. One day, while my 
plans were still only an unspoken secret, we were sitting together in the 
cozy old shipping office down by the wharves at Oslo. Thomas had 
smelled a rat when I came in and he produced a fat globe, which he 
placed between us. I turned it round till it was nearly all blue. That can 
only happen when the immense South Pacific is swung up so that 
America and Asia disappear together with Europe onto the back half 
of the globe. I pointed to Easter Island. 

"There," I said. "But how?" 

Two days later we were sitting round the globe again, and Wilhelm 
presented his calculations. 

"The best thing for you would be a diesel-propelled boat about 150 
feet long with a speed of 12 knots and space for 50 tons of water and 130 
tons of oil," he said. 

I did not doubt for a moment that this would be the best thing for 
me. I had learned to rely on Wilhelm's nautical calculations ever since he 
had helped me estimate the Kon-Tity's drift so exactly that we should 

A \u- A tyi 

have been there to the day if only we had managed to throw a rope 
ashore to keep from drifting past Angatau. 

Wilhelm called me up a few days later. He had an offer from a can- 
ning factory at Stavanger. They had a suitable trawler on the Greenland 
fishing grounds. I could hire her for a year if I took her from September. 

I looked at the calendar. It was toward the end of April, and Septem- 
ber was only four months away. The offer was "bareboat" I was to take 
over the vessel empty, without crew or equipment. 

My own navigating experience had never got beyond the balsa-raft 
stage. Nor could the other fellows from the Kon-Tity voyage man a real 
ship: licenses and papers were required. It was all much simpler on an 
Inca raft. 
"Our office can help you with all nautical problems," Thomas said. 

So we suddenly found ourselves sitting at the big green conference 
table with the marine superintendent, the signing-on authority, the pro- 
visioning authority, the insurance authority, and all the other experts 
higher and lower. And the result was a real ship. I could almost hear 
impatient hootings from the big vessel which lay at Stavanger without a 
spark of life in her funnel, her deck empty of men, and not a thing in 
the large hold where naked iron girders projected cheerlessly like ribs 
round an empty stomach. 

There is always a good deal to think about when taking the family 
to the country. And there is just as much to remember when, in addi- 
tion to the family, you are taking to the South Seas five archaeologists, a 
doctor, a photographer, a crew of thirteen, a ship containing spare parts, 
special equipment, and a year's meals for everyone. One feels like a con- 
ductor busy eating spaghetti while trying to drive his orchestra through 
a rhapsody by Liszt. My desk was a complete chaos of passports and pa- 
pers and licenses, photographs and letters. The furniture was covered 
with charts and lists and samples of all kinds of gear. This madness 
soon spread all over the house. 

After the newspapers had announced our plans, there was no end to 
the strange proposals which came by mail. I heard almost daily from 
people in the most scattered quarters of the world who told me that 
Easter Island was the last remnant of a sunken continent, a sort of Pa- 


Detectives Off to the End of the World 

cific Atlantis. It was on the bottom of the sea round the island, they said, 
that we must seek for the key to the mystery, not on land. 

There was even a man who proposed that I should give up the 
whole expedition, "It is a waste of time to travel so far," he wrote. "You 
can sit in your own study and solve the problem by vibrations. Send me 
a photograph of an Easter Island statue and a photograph of an old 
statue from South America, and I'll tell you by the vibrations if they 
originate from the same people." He added that he had once made a 
model of Cheops' pyramid in cardboard, with raw meat in it. And after 
a time it vibrated so horribly that he had to send the whole family to the 

September came. A streamlined Greenland trawler, shining white 
like a yacht, with the bearded face of the sun-god Kon-Tiki painted in 
brick red on her funnel, was lying at pier C in front of the Oslo city 
hall. Forward, on the high bow, reinforced against ice, a curious blue 
emblem was painted, the meaning of which only the initiated knew. It 
showed two of the sacred bird-men of Easter Island, half-bird and half- 
human, copied from one of the rare tablets with undeciphered hiero- 

A crew had been signed on in spite of wives' and sweethearts' alarm 
over a year's absence in the romantic South Seas, and now there was 
heat in the funnel, and the ship lay full-loaded in the fiord water right 
up to her blue-painted water line. There was hectic activity on board, 
and such a dense crowd ashore that it was almost impossible for trucks 
delivering bundles and parcels at the twelfth hour to get through. 

Had we remembered everything? Of course we had food and dig- 
ging gear, fishhooks and yard goods for barter with the natives, and all 
that we knew for certain we should need. The danger lay in the unfore- 
seen. Suppose we found, contrary to our expectations, a skeleton under 
water. Had we the right chemicals to prevent it from disintegrating? 
Suppose we had to go to an inaccessible rock or ledge, had we the means 
of reaching it ? Or how should we tackle problems of contact and pro- 
visioning if the camp was on one side of the island and the ship had 
suddenly to go round to the other side on account of bad weather? 
What if the cook burned a hole in a saucepan, the propeller was dam- 


aged by a block of coral, or a sailor put his foot on a poisonous sea 
urchin ? And what about all the food if the refrigerator ceased to work ? 
Had we all imaginable special equipment and spare parts ? Now there 
was no more time to think it over. Now we must be prepared to meet 
all conceivable reverses, for the Greenland trawler was lying vibrant, 
ready to sail for Easter Island, the loneliest spot in the world, which had 
not a single workshop or store. 

The captain was on the bridge, and the crew were running about 
the deck battening down hatches and hauling on ropes, while a gigantic 
mate stood, pencil in hand, checking off items on a long list. At all 
events, everything he had been told about had come. Even the skipper's 
Christmas tree was packed away in the refrigerator. The list was in 

The ship's bell sounded for the last time. Orders rang out from cap- 
tain to first officer, and there was a fierce blast from the funnel behind 
the sun-god's shining head. Farewells and last good wishes were ex- 
changed over the ship's rail. Brusquely the gangplank was rolled away, 
there was a splashing of cables and creaking of winches, and the engi- 
neers down below applied their magic: the ship began to move. A cheer 
rose from the long wall of figures on the pier. Hands waved and hand- 
kerchiefs fluttered like treetops in a gale, while the captain made the 
siren utter a few heart-rending howls. 

This chaos was the end of chaos, its climax and full stop. 

I was left waving in the turmoil on the pier. It was not that I had 
forgotten to embark myself, but I had first to fly to the United States to 
meet three archaeologists who had agreed to join the expedition. And 
after that I had to pay a courtesy visit to Chile before I went aboard our 
ship when she came through the Panama Canal. 

H.R.H. Crown Prince Olav had most kindly offered to be patron of 
the expedition, and the Norwegian Foreign Office had obtained permis- 
sion from the Chilean Government for the expedition to begin digging 
on Easter Island as long as we did not damage the monuments. Both 
Great Britain and France had given permission for their islands, so we 
had the green light for everything we could stumble upon in the eastern 


Detectives Off to the End of the World 

When the boat turned her white stern toward us and slid slowly 
away from the quay, a solitary deck boy stood high astern. As bright 
as the evening sun with sheer joy, he proudly hauled in the end of a 
dirty mooring cable, while his classmates stood on shore shouting hip- 
hip-hurrah for Thor Junior, who was being let off school for a whole 

Then the little craft slipped behind a big ocean steamer and was lost 
to sight. She was in a hurry, she was to go halfway round the world 
with detectives on the track of other seafarers who had a start of several 




What perfect peace. The engine had stopped. The lights 
had been put out. The whole starry firmament, suddenly freed of the 
artificial dazzle, swung to and fro and in slow circles, clear and glitter- 
ing round the masthead. I leaned far back in my deck chair and enjoyed 
this complete harmony. It was as though the plug of an electric line to 
the mainland had been pulled out and the ceaseless stream of impulses 
from disturbing stations all over the world had been removed. Nothing 
remained but the intimate present and naked reality: fresh air, black 
night, and twinkling stars. Almost imperceptibly sight and hearing 
opened wide again and let a breeze blow right through my soul. 

There were here no impressions to be washed away or suppressed; 
no city racket with flashing neon signs, restless competition, and noisy 
amusements which, as though in a race with time itself, strove to force 
their way in through every opening at the risk of jolting to pieces the 
sensitive human soul. Here there was quiet so complete that time itself 

ceased to roll on. It too stopped, stood motionless, and waited. One 
almost hesitated to cough, as if to do so would break the spell and wake 
the world's sleeping elements of unrest. 

Far off toward the land a faint rushing noise was sometimes heard 
in the darkness, as of wind or waves breaking at short intervals against 
a cliff. All on board were curiously silent; the stillness must have given 
them a feeling of reverence. Only from the cabin hatchway did I hear 
now and again a short, hushed exchange of words, accompanied by the 
washing of water in finely graduated tones against the ship's side, and 
then a quiet rhythmical creak, creak, creak, like a contented grunting 
from the little vessel as she rocked discreetly in the silence of the night. 
We had come under the shelter of land. 

We had done with the hurried panting beat of the engines and the 
seas which thundered against our bow in endless lines and rolled us up 
and down and sideways before they hissed past us. We had crept into 
the protecting embrace of a lonely coast before night fell over us and 
the sea. There, in the darkness, lay Easter Island. 
( We had stolen up under the land just in time to catch a glimpse of 
roiling gray-green ridges, steep cliffs along the coast, and, far away in 
the interior, statues standing scattered up the slope of an extinct vol- 
cano, like black caraway seeds against the red evening sky. We had 
made our way in by echo and ordinary sounding as far as we dared go, 
and then the skipper had cast anchor.^ 

Not a soul was to be seen on shore, only a deserted, petrified world 
with motionless stone heads gazing at us from their distant ridge, while 
other equally motionless stone men lay prostrate in a row at the foot of 
a long terrace right in the foreground, on the lava blocks along the 
coast. It was as though we had anchored with a hovering spaceship off 
the shore of an extinct world, where once had lived beings of a kind 
other than those on our own earth. The shadows were long, but nothing 
moved: nothing but the fiery red sun as it descended slowly into the 
black sea and drew the night down over us. 

Strictly speaking, we ought not to have anchored here. We ought 
really to have pushed on through the seas right round the island and 
announced our arrival to the governor, who lived with the whole popu- 


What Awaited Us at the World's Navel 

lation in a little village on the other side. But it would have been no 
pleasure either to him or to the native inhabitants of the island if we 
had arrived just at dusk, at a place where a call from any ship is one of 
the greatest events of the year. Better to ride out the night here under 
the lee of the cliffs, even if the bottom was of the worst kind for anchor- 
ing. Then we could arrive at the village of Hangaroa early next morn- 
ing with all flags flying. 

The door of our cabin was cautiously opened and a strip of light 
slanted across the boat deck for a few seconds as Yvonne, my wife, stole 
out. In the cabin little Anette lay sleeping as peacefully as the night sky 
itself, with a doll under one arm and a teddy bear under the other. 

"We ought to have a little celebration tonight, even if we haven't 
arrived officially," Yvonne whispered, nodding happily toward the land. 

It was the first time for fourteen days of rolling and pitching that 
she had been on her legs and able to think of anything of the kind. I 
told her that the steward had had his orders and that the captain was 
going to assemble all hands on the boat deck in a few minutes. Yvonne 
remained standing at the rail staring in enchantment landward into the 
darkness. We could actually feel a few light breaths of mother earth, a 
curious dry scent of hay or grass, which now and then mingled with 
the clean salt breeze. 

The men began to arrive. Newly shaved, and smartened up till 
hardly recognizable, they sat down on chairs which had been placed in 
a ring between the two ship's boats on the upper deck. There was Dr. 
William Mulloy, or Bill. He came swinging along, broad and thickset, 
and flung the stub of a cigarette into the sea as he sat down. He stared 
thoughtfully at the deck. Close behind him came tall, thin Dr. Carlyle 
Smith. Carl lit up and remained standing, half -hanging from a stay and 
looking at the stars. They were both professors of archaeology, at Wy- 
oming and Kansas universities respectively. Then there was our old 
friend Ed, or Edwin Ferdon, from the Museum of New Mexico, the 
only one of the three American archaeologists I had known before. He 
leaned over the rail beside Yvonne and sniffed happily toward the con- 
tours of the land. 

The skipper came down from the bridge, a little man who moved 

like a bouncing ball. Captain Arne Hartmark had been sailing to distant 
lands for twenty years, but he had never seen anything like Easter 
Island through his binoculars. Behind him stood the gigantic mate 
Sanne, a jovial fellow, hanging onto a stay with each hand, looking like 
an amiable tame gorilla. And there was Second Officer Larsen, the most 
good-natured man in the world, who would find something to laugh 
at even in the electric chair. He was sitting between two inexhaustible 
humorists, the stout chief engineer, Olsen, his face wrinkled with per- 
petual smiling, and the skinny second engineer, whose newly acquired 
chin tuft made him look like a cross between a lay reader and a conjurer. 

The doctor, Dr. Gjessing, came up the ladder, bowed, and sat 
down, and behind him gleamed the spectacles of the expedition's pho- 
tographer, Erling Schjerven, who lit a small cigar in honor of the occa- 
sion. Thor Junior had found room for his lanky, boyish figure between 
two stout sailors up in a ship's boat, and the cook and steward were 
sitting there too, side by side, after having silently placed the most ex- 
quisite dishes on the table between us. No sea could prevent Gronmyr, 
the steward, and Hanken, the cook, from performing their culinary 
miracles on board. Then came the boatswain, the electrician, the deck 
boy, and the galley boy, with Arne Skjolsvold and Gonzalo. Arne was 
an archaeologist and head of the new state museum at Elverum. He 
had taken part in the Galapagos expedition as well. Gonzalo Figueroa 
was a student of archaeology at Santiago University and the official 
representative of Chile on the expedition. We had been ready for any- 
thing before he came, as I had invited him without an interview, but 
Gonzalo came up the gangplank at Panama in high spirits, an athletic 
aristocrat with the chameleonic gift of adapting himself to the most 
variable conditions of life. 

So we were gathered on the boat deck, twenty-three in all, a most 
versatile party, including men from many walks of life. In the weeks 
on board we had become close friends, bound by a common desire to 
set foot on that very island that lay there in the darkness. Now that all 
were assembled, and the engine had stopped, it was natural to tell them 
something about other people's experiences on Easter Island so that 
they might all have a little background for what lay ahead. 


What Awaited Us at the World's Navel 

"No one really knows the name of that island," I began. "The natives 
call it Rapa Nui, but research workers do not think that this was its 
original name. In their most ancient legends the natives always call the 
island Te Pito o te Henua, or 'Navel of the World/ but even that may 
be an old, poetical description rather than the island's real name. Later 
the natives also called it the 'Eye Which Sees Heaven' or the 'Frontier 
of Heaven/ The rest of us who live thousands of miles beyond all the 
island's horizons have elected to place the name 'Easter Island' on the 
map, because it was on the afternoon of Easter Day, 1722, that the 
Dutchman Roggeveen and his companions came here, the first Euro- 
peans to sail into these waters. They noticed that unknown people 
ashore were sending up smoke signals, and when the Dutchman cast 
the anchors of their two sailing craft at sunset, they had a glimpse of a 
strange community before night fell. They were first met on board 
their ships by tall, well-built people who, so far as can be judged, were 
fair-skinned Polynesians such as we know them in Tahiti, Hawaii, and 
the other eastern islands of the South Seas. But the population did not 
seem to be absolutely pure and unmixed, for among the native visitors 
some were conspicuous by their darker skins, while others again were 
'quite white,' like Europeans. A few were also 'of a reddish tint, as if 
somewhat severely tanned by the sun,' Many had beards. 

"On shore the Dutchmen saw gigantic figures thirty feet high, with 
great cylinders on the tops of their heads, like a kind of crown. Rog- 
geveen himself tells that the islanders lighted fires before these giant 
gods and then squatted down before them with the soles of their feet 
flat against the ground and their heads bent reverently. They began to 
raise and lower their arms with the palms of their hands pressed to- 
gether. Behrens, who was on board the other ship, tells us that when 
the sun rose next morning they could see the natives on shore lying 
prostrate and worshiping the sunrise, and they had lighted hundreds 
of fires which the Dutchmen thought were in honor of the gods. This 
is the only time that anyone has described active sun worship on Easter 

"Among the first who came on board the Dutch ships was a 'com- 
pletely white man 1 who had a more ceremonious air than the others. 

He was ornamented with a crown of feathers on his head, which other- 
wise was close-shaven, and he had in his ears round white pegs as large 
as fists. This white man showed by his bearing that he was a prominent 
person in the community, and the Dutchmen thought that he might be 
a priest. The lobes of his ears were pierced and artificially lengthened 
so that they hung down to his shoulders, and the Dutch noted that 
many of the islanders had ears artificially lengthened in this manner. 
If their long ears got in the way when they were at work, they just took 
out the pegs and tied the long flap up over the upper edge of the ear. 

"Many of the islanders went about stark naked, but with the whole 
body artistically tattooed in one continuous pattern of birds and strange 
figures. Others wore cloaks of bark cloth colored red and yellow. Some 
had waving crowns of feathers on their heads, and others queer reed 
hats. All were friendly, and the Dutchmen saw no weapons of any kind. 
Curiously enough there were hardly any women to be seen, although 
the place swarmed with men. But the few women who showed them- 
selves were more than cordial to the unknown visitors without the men 
showing the smallest sign of jealousy. 

"The inhabitants lived in long, low huts made of reeds they looked 
like boats turned bottom upward with no windows and a door open- 
ing so low that one could only just crawl in. Evidently masses of people 
lived in these without any furniture save a few mats on the floor and a 
stone for a pillow. Fowls were the only animals they kept. They culti- 
vated bananas, sugar cane, and above all sweet potatoes, which the 
Dutch called the island's daily bread. 

"These lonely islanders could certainly not have been active sea- 
farers, for the largest craft the Dutchmen saw were canoes eight feet 
long, so narrow that one could barely force both legs in, and so leaky 
that one spent just as much time bailing as paddling. They were still 
living in Stone Age fashion, with no metals, and their food was cooked 
among glowing stones in the earth. It must have seemed to the Dutch- 
men that there was, in their own century, scarcely any place in the 
world so backward. It was, therefore, only natural that they were utterly 
astonished to find, in the midst of these poor people, gigantic statues 
towering upward, larger than any they had seen in Europe. At first 

What Awaited Us at the World's Navel 

they were intrigued by the feat it must have been to erect these tall 
statues: they saw no solid wood or strong rope in the inhabitants' pos- 
session. They examined the worn surface of one of the weather-beaten 
colossi, and solved the whole problem to their own satisfaction by de- 
claring that the figures were not of stone, but were modeled from a 
kind of clay which was afterward stuffed with small stones. 

"They rowed back to the ships, which had already lost two of their 
anchors, and sailed away from the newly discovered island after a single 
day's visit. They noted in their log that the inhabitants they had found 
were cheerful, peaceful, and well-mannered, but all were expert thieves. 
Through a misunderstanding one native visitor was shot on board one 
of the ships, and a dozen others were shot ashore, while the Europeans 
got off with the loss of one tablecloth and of a few hats which were 
stolen while they had them on their heads. 

"The natives were left on the shore with their dead and wounded, 
staring after the great sails disappearing westward. Nearly fifty years 
were to pass before the next visit from the outer world. 

"Next time it was the Spaniards who came. Led by Don Felipe 
Gonzales with two ships, they appeared over the horizon of Easter 
Island in 1770, and they also were attracted by smoke signals sent up by 
the natives. They went ashore with two priests and a large party of 
soldiers, and marched in ceremonial procession to the top of a three- 
humped elevation on the east coast, while great crowds of curious, 
cheering natives came dancing after them. They planted a cross on 
each of the three hummocks, sang, fired a salute, and declared the island 
to be Spanish territory. As proof that all these proceedings were legal, 
they wrote a declaration addressed to King Charles of Spain, under 
which the boldest of the natives who stood round were allowed to sign 
their names, 'with every sign of joy and happiness/ in the form of 
birds and curious figures which the Spaniards accepted as signatures. 
So now the island had an owner, the King of Spain, and it received a 
new name, 'San Carlos Island.' 

"The Spaniards were not deceived into thinking the monuments were 
of clay. They struck one of the statues so hard with a hoe that sparks 
sprang from it, and thus it was evident that they were of stone. How 

these colossi were set up was a mystery to the Spaniards, and they even 
doubted whether they could have been made on this island. 

"Both gifts and stolen goods disappeared so completely that the 
.Spaniards suspected the inhabitants of having secret underground hid- 
ing places, for the whole country was open and treeless. No children 
were to be seen anywhere; the whole population seemed to consist of 
multitudes of grown men and only a few women, but these few decid- 
edly unrestrained. 

"The Spaniards met on the island tall, fair men. Two of the biggest 
were measured and were respectively 6 feet, 6 l / 2 inches and 6 feet, 5 
inches talL Many had beards, and the Spaniards found that they were 
quite like Europeans and not ordinary natives. They noted in their 
diaries that not all of them had black hair: the hair of some was chest- 
nut brown, and in other cases it was even reddish and cinnamon-colored. 
And when they actually got the inhabitants to repeat clearly in 
Spanish, 'Ave Maria, long live Charles III, King of Spain, 1 all the 
Spaniards agreed that they were an intelligent people who could easity 
be civilized. Filled with satisfaction they left their new subjects, never to 
return. 1 

"It was the English next time, under the command of no less than 
Captain Cook, and after him came the Frenchman La Perouse. 

"The people of Easter Island were now beginning to have enough of 
these foreign visitors. When Cook landed, astonishingly few people 
were to be seen, only a few hundred in all, and these were all under 
middle height and in a miserable state. They were cheerless and indif- 
ferent. Cook's companions thought that some misfortune must have 
befallen the island since the Spaniards' visit, that the inhabitants were 
dying off. But Cook himself suspected that the population had gone 
into hiding underground, for in particular there were remarkably few 
women to be seen, although patrols were sent all over the island. At 
several places the Englishmen found heaps of stones with narrow de- 
scents to what they thought might be underground caves, but every 

J An English translation of old logbooks and original letters in connection with both 
Roggevccn's and Gonzilcs' visits to Easter Island is contained in vol. xm of the Hakluyt 
Society, Cambridge, England, 1908. 

What Awaited Us at the World's Navel 

time they tried to investigate these, the natives refused to admit them. 
The Englishmen, plagued with scurvy, left Easter Island in despair and 
disappointment, having obtained for themselves nothing but a supply 
of sweet potatoes, the only important product they saw. But even with 
these they were cheated, for the cunning natives had filled the baskets 
with stones, and only laid a few potatoes on the top. 

"Only twelve years had passed since Cook's visit when the French- 
man La Perouse paid a similar lightning visit in 1786. This time people 
appeared again all over Easter Island. As before, some had light hair, 
and nearly half were suddenly grown-up women. There were, more- 
over, swarms of children of all ages, as in any normal community. It 
really seemed as though they had been spawned up from the interior 
of the earth into the treeless moonlike landscape of the little island. 
And that was just what had happened. 

"They came crawling up out of subterranean passages, and the 
Frenchmen obtained free admission into some of the narrow stone 
tunnels which the English had not been allowed to enter. They con- 
firmed Cook's suspicion that the population had made themselves secret 
retreats in dark underground chambers. Here the aristocracy had shel- 
tered itself from Captain Cook, and here the children and most of the 
women had been hidden even when the Dutch discovered the island. 
La Perouse understood that it was because Cook and his men had be- 
haved so peaceably that the population of the island now took courage 
and crept out into the light of day, a couple of thousand in all. 

"Even if the greater part of the people were hiding under the earth 
while Cook was going about on the island, and even if they had hustled 
all their most important possessions down underground with them, at 
any rate they had not taken the huge stone figures with them. The 
statues stood at their posts as stubbornly as ever. Both Cook and La 
Perouse were in agreement that these were relics from earlier times: 
they were in their eyes already very ancient monuments. Cook was not 
a little impressed by the degree of skill achieved by those unknown 
builders, who had once raised their colossi on the top ledge of terraced 
walls without any mechanical contrivances. However it had been done, 
Cook held it to be proof of intelligence and resourcefulness in a people 


who had lived on this desolate island in ancient times. For he was sure 
that the existing population had had nothing to do with it. They had 
not even attempted to maintain the foundations of the walls, which had 
long ago begun to fall into decay. Nor did all the statues stand upright 
in their original places; many had fallen prostrate on the ground at the 
foot of their own platforms, with every sign of deliberate destruction. 

"Cook investigated a few of the great wall terraces on which the 
statues stood, and was vastly impressed at finding that they were com- 
posed of huge stone blocks, so precisely cut and polished that they 
fitted together without mortar or cement. Cook had never seen more 
perfect mason's work in any wall, even in the best buildings in England. 
Yet, he added, 'all this care, pains, and sagacity had not been able to 
preserve these curious structures from the ravages of all-devouring 

"A Polynesian from Tahiti was on board Cook's ship, and he under- 
stood some of the dialect spoken by the population of Easter Island at 
that time. From the scraps of information thus obtained, the English- 
men got the impression that the statues were not regarded as ordinary 
images of the gods, but as monuments to earlier arifos, memorials of 
deceased persons of holy and royal birth. Parts of skeletons and bones 
showed that the platforms on which the statues stood had been regularly 
used as burial places by those who now lived in the island. It was obvi- 
ous that they believed in a life after death, for on various occasions they 
made the clearest signs to explain that while the skeleton lay lifeless on 
earth, the person's real ego had disappeared up in the direction of the 

"An effort to influence the local culture of Easter Island was at- 
tempted for the first time when, in the few hours he lay off the coast, 
La Perouse landed pigs, goats, and sheep, and sowed a quantity of 
seed. But all this was eaten up by the hungry natives before it had time 
to propagate, and the island remained unchanged. 

"No one else visited lonely Easter Island till the beginning of the last 
century. Then our own race suddenly reappeared, and the natives 
assembled in crowds on the cliffs along the coast and no longer tried to 
crawl down into their shelters. This time it was the captain of an 


What Awaited Us at the World's Navel 

American schooner, paying a short visit to look for colonists for a pro- 
posed sealing station on Juan Fernandez, the Robinson Crusoe island 
off the coast of Chile. After a fierce struggle he succeeded in kidnap- 
ing twelve men and ten women and put to sea with them. After three 
days' sailing he let his prisoners loose on deck. They immediately 
jumped overboard and began to swim across the sea in the direction of 
vanished Easter Island. The captain took no notice of them, but put 
the ship about and carried out a fresh raid on the island. 

"The next ships which passed were unable to land men on the steep 
coast because they met an impenetrable wall of natives throwing stones. 
A Russian expedition at last succeeded in forcing a landing with the 
help of powder and shot, but a few hours later they also had to retreat 
and re-embark, 

"Years passed. At last the natives' confidence slowly returned, and at 
intervals of many years some passing vessels made a brief call. There 
was gradually less and less stone throwing, and more and more women 
emerged into the daylight and charmed the visitors. But then there was 

"One day a flotilla of seven Peruvian sailing ships anchored off the 
coast. A crowd of natives swam out and boarded the ships, where to 
their gratification they were allowed to inscribe a few flourishes at the 
foot of a sheet of paper. Thereby they had signed another legal docu- 
ment, but this time it was a contract to go as laborers to the guano 
islands off the coast of Peru. When, happy and unsuspecting, they 
wanted to go ashore again, they were bound and taken below. 

"Then eight of the slave hunters rowed ashore with clothes and 
brightly colored presents and threw these down on the shore. Numbers 
of curious natives who had assembled on the rocks round the bay began 
slowly to come nearer to admire these tempting objects. When at last 
several hundred stood crowded together on the beach, the slave hunters 
attacked. The natives who were kneeling down and picking up the 
presents were seized and their hands tied behind them, while those 
who tried to escape over the cliffs or swim out to sea were fired at. Just 
as the last of the ship's boats was ready to put off, loaded to the gun- 
wales with prisoners, one of the captains discovered two natives who 


had hidden in a cave. When he could not persuade them to go with 
him, he shot them down. 

"So it was that on Christmas Eve of 1862 Easter Island lay desolate 
and depopulated. All who were not lying dead on the rocks by the 
shore, or below decks out in the bay with their hands bound behind 
them, had crept down into their subterranean catacombs and rolled 
stones in front of the openings. An oppressive silence reigned on the 
treeless island; only the breakers murmured threateningly. The ex- 
pressions of the giant gods remained unmoved, but from the ships there 
was cheering and shouting. The visitors did not weigh anchor till they 
had celebrated Christmas. 

"The population of the World's Navel, having experienced white 
man's Christmas as well as Easter Day, was now to see a little more of 
the outside world. The ships sailed away with a thousand slaves, who 
were landed to dig guano on the islands off the coast of Peru. The 
bishop of Tahiti protested, and the authorities decided that the slaves 
should be taken back to their own island immediately. But about nine 
hundred had died of illness and unfamiliar living conditions before the 
ship was ready to fetch them, and of the hundred survivors who em- 
barked eighty-five died on the voyage, so only fifteen returned to Easter 
Island alive. They brought with them smallpox, which spread like wild- 
fire at once and made an end of almost the whole population, of even 
those who hid themselves down in the deepest and narrowest caves. 
Scarcity and misery prevailed till the population of the whole island 
fell to in in all, adults and children. 

"In the meantime the first foreigner had settled on the island. This 
was a solitary missionary, who honestly did his best to alleviate the 
misery he found there, but the natives stole from him everything he 
possessed, even the trousers he was wearing. He got away in the first 
ship, but returned with several helpers and set up a little mission sta- 
tion. A few years after, when all the surviving islanders had consented 
to be baptized, a French adventurer arrived and set them against the 
missionaries. The natives drove out the missionaries and killed the 
Frenchman, and went on singing hymns on their own account. All 
other traces of the missionaries were obliterated. 

What Awaited Us at the World's Navel 

"At the end of the last century the Europeans found that there was 
excellent grazing for thousands of sheep round the statues on Easter 
Island, and at last the island was annexed by Chile. Now there are a 
governor, a priest, and a doctor on the island, and no one lives in caves 
or reed huts. Civilization has displaced the old culture on Easter Island, 
just as it has done among inhabitants of all the other South Sea Islands, 
and the Eskimos and Indians. 

"So we haven't come here to study the natives," I concluded. "We've 
come to dig. If the answers to the riddle of Easter Island exist today, 
they must be down in the earth." 

"Has no one been here and dug before?" someone asked. 

"No one thinks there is any earth to dig in. No trees grow on the 
island. If there was no woodland in old times either, not much earth 
can have been formed from withering grass alone." 

In fact there had been only two archaeological expeditions to this 
strange island. The first was a British private expedition headed by 
Katherine Routledge. She came to Easter Island in 1914 in her own 
sailing yacht and surveyed and mapped everything she saw above 
ground. In the first instance wall terraces, old roads, and over four hun- 
dred gigantic stone statues which lay scattered about all over the island. 
She had her hands so full with this pioneering work that there was no 
time for any systematic excavation, apart from clearing up round some 
of the statues which had been partly covered by sand and gravel carried 
downhill by rain. Unfortunately all the scientific notes of the Routledge 
expedition were lost, but in a book on her voyage round the world she 
writes that the whole island teems with mystery and unsolved prob- 
lems. Each day she had been filled with continually increasing wonder 
at the strange unsolved problems which lay behind it all. The shadows 
of the departed builders still possess the land, she says. One cannot 
escape from them. They are more active and real than the living popula- 
tion of the island, and reign supreme with their silent giant construc- 
tions as vassals. Impelled by motives unknown to us, this people had 
hacked their way with crude stone picks into the mountainsides and 
altered the shape of a whole extinct volcano, just to obtain raw material 
for the fulfillment of their fanatical desire to see gigantic sculptures in 


human shape erected round about, on all the bays and landing places. 
"Every where is the wind of heaven; round and above all are bound- 
less sea and sky, infinite space and a great silence. The dweller there is 
ever listening for he knows not what, feeling unconsciously that he is 
in the antechamber to something yet more vast which is just beyond 
his ken." 2 Such was Mrs. Routledge's view of Easter Island. She freely 
recognized the mystery, soberly presented her own facts, and left the 
solution to those who would come after. 

Twenty years later a Franco-Belgian expedition was landed by a 
warship and picked up again by another. One of the archaeologists died 
on the voyage, and while the Frenchman Metraux collected oral in- 
formation from the natives for a large-scale study of the island's eth- 
nography, the Belgian Lavachery was more than fully occupied in 
examining thousands of rock carvings and other strange stone works 
which were to be seen everywhere on the treeless island. So no excava- 
tion was done this time either. 

The Franco-Belgian expedition had, generally speaking, set itself 
other objectives on the island than the British, and the statues were not 
their main concern. But Metraux thought the mystery was exaggerated: 
ordinary natives from the islands farther west could have come here 
with the idea of making figures, and because there were no trees to 
carve they tackled the mountain rock. 

Other research workers and numerous circumnavigators have 
landed on Easter Island both earlier and later; their vessels have waited 
for a few days, or most often a few hours, and meanwhile they have 
collected legends and wood carvings from the poor population, or live 
creatures and plants from its equally poor terrain. The little island east 
of the sun and west of the moon has been slowly stripped for the benefit 
of the world's museum cases and souvenir cabinets. Most of what could 
be taken away has been taken away. Only the giant heads stand on the 
slopes, with a stony, supercilious smile, and say how-do-you-do and 
good-by to the Lilliputians who come, stare, and go again as the cen- 

2 Kathcrinc Scorcsby Routlcdgc, The Mystery of Easter Island: The Story of an Expedi- 
tion (London, 1919)* PP- *33 165, 391, etc. 

What Awaited Us at the World's Navel 

turies roll by. A veil of mystery has continued to lie about the island like 
a haze. 

These were the main features of Easter Island's history. 

"Isn't it possible that the natives themselves have any unreported 
legends?'* the skipper asked quietly. 

"Optimist/' I said. "Tomorrow you're going to meet people who are 
as civilized as you and I. The first person who collected legends among 
them was an American, Paymaster Thomson, in 1886. At that time 
natives who had grown up before any white man had settled on the 
island were still living. They told him that their forefathers had come 
over the sea from the east in big ships by steering straight toward the 
sunset for sixty days. Originally two different races had lived together 
on the island, 'long-ears' and 'short-ears,' but the short-ears had slaugh- 
tered almost all the others in a war, and then they ruled on the island 

"What ancient legends there were you can read in books today," I 
added. "There isn't much left of the old South Seas." 

"Least of all on Easter Island," Gonzalo put in. "A handful of white 
people live here now, and even a school and a small hospital have been 

"Yes, the only benefit we can get from the inhabitants is the extra 
help we shall need for digging," I added. "And perhaps they can get 
us a few fresh vegetables." 

"Maybe there are some vahines who can teach us a bit of hula," 
muttered one of the engineers, and there was a lively burst of laughter 
and approval from one of the ship's boats. 

Then we suddenly heard a hoarse, unintelligible remark, and every- 
one looked round in astonishment. Who had said what? The mate 
flashed a light over the dark deck. No one was there. Everyone felt 
rather foolish, and the engineer tried a new joke about hula girls. But 
at the same moment we heard the voice again. Was it someone over- 
board? We ran to the rail and turned a light down toward the black 
water. Instead of water the light played straight into a knot of upturned, 
staring faces, the faces of the worst gang of pirates we had ever seen. 
They were standing close-packed in a little boat and gazing up at us. 


"la-o-rana." I tried the Polynesian greeting. 

"la-o-rana? they replied in chorus. 

So they were Polynesians. But upon my soul they were a mixture of 
everything else as well. 

We flung a ladder down to them, and one by one they came clam- 
bering up the ship's side and jumped on board. Most of them were 
strong, well-built fellows, but almost all were conspicuously ragged and 
tattered. The first man to appear in the light at the top of the ladder 
had a red cloth round his head and a bundle hanging between his teeth. 
He pushed his bare toes over the rail and scrambled on board wearing 
a torn undershirt and the remains of a rolled-up pair of trousers. Be- 
hind him came a big pockmarked, barelegged fellow in an old, green 
army overcoat, with a large wooden club and a bundle of carved sticks 
over his shoulder. He was followed closely by the goggle-eyed grinning 
head of a ghostlike wooden figure, which was maneuvered up the lad- 
der by a native in a white sailor's cap. Once on deck, the ragged fellows 
shook hands with everyone they could get near, and produced bags and 
sacks full of curious things. The most bizarre wooden carvings began 
to circulate from hand to hand, and soon attracted more attention than 
their owners. 

There was one particular weird figure with sloping shoulders which 
reappeared in all the men's wood carvings. It had a strikingly curved 
aquiline nose, a goatee beard, long hanging ear lobes, large deep-set 
eyes, and a face convulsed in a devilish grin. The spine and naked ribs 
stuck out, while the stomach was completely drawn in. The figure was 
always exactly the same, whether it was large or small. There were a 
few other curious wooden figures, notably one of a human body with 
wings and a bird's head; there were elegant clubs and paddles adorned 
with staring masks; and there were moon-shaped breast ornaments 
decorated with mysterious hieroglyphs which no person now living 
could interpret. All the carvings were faultlessly executed, and so highly 
polished that they were like porcelain to the touch. There were also 
some copies, a good deal less successful, of the great stone statues, and 
a handsome feather crown with a dress belonging to it, also made of 
feathers, artistically bound together. 


What Awaited Us at the World's Navel 

I had never seen such productiveness on any of the other Poly- 
nesian islands, whose inhabitants prefer to take life very easy. Here, 
indeed, we had been received by a whole team of admirable wood 
carvers. It looked, moreover, to an uninitiated person as if these fellows 
with their bizarre works of art must be possessed of untamable fantasy 
and joy in creation. But on closer inspection one quickly perceived that 
the same curious shapes reappeared all the time, quite unchanged. 
There was no variation whatsoever from certain predetermined pat- 

I had just studied Dr. Mostny's collection of modern popular art 
from Easter Island in the National Museum in Chile, and when the 
natives began to produce their wooden figures, they were most aston- 
ished at my recognizing all the different types by name. In reality they 
were all perfect copies of carvings which the earliest Europeans found 
among the natives on Easter Island, and which now exist only in mu- 
seums. The originals are today immensely valuable, but as they are no 
longer on the market, the natives see that the trade is kept going with 
good copies. 

The wood carvers pointed with apologetic smiles to their ragged 
trousers and bare legs, they wanted to barter their goods for clothes 
and shoes. In a few seconds business was in full swing all over the 
deck. The crew, impelled both by acquisitiveness and charity, plunged 
down into their cabins and came up again with all they could spare in 
the way of clothing. Little Anette suddenly appeared in pyjamas. She 
stood in the middle of the throng and tugged, quite enthralled, at the 
leg of a grotesque bird-man which one of the ragged natives held under 
his arm, and when he saw that she liked the figure, he gave it to her 
at once. Yvonne hurried off to fetch a parcel for him. 

The photographer came up and nudged my arm. "There's a fellow 
standing over there holding something queer under his shirt. He says 
it's very, very old goes back to his great-great-grandfather," he whis- 

I smiled, but accompanied him to a thin, pleasant-mannered man 
who looked more than anything like a pale Arab with a Hitler mus- 

"Buenos dias, Senor," he said, showing of? his Spanish, and with an 
air of mystery drew from his breast a little flat stone with a bird-man 
obviously quite freshly cut on one side. 

Before he had time to mention his great-great-grandfather again, I 
said enthusiastically: "No! Did you really do that yourself?" 

For a second he was taken aback, and his face contorted in a strug- 
gle between a smile and confusion. Then he blushed proudly and 
looked at his masterpiece as if he thought that, after all, it would be a 
great pity to give anyone else the credit for it. 

"Yes," he said proudly, and was now visibly basking in the conscious- 
ness of his own talent. He had no need for regrets, for the photographer 
liked the stone and took it. 

Another boat had suddenly come alongside, and I was told that a 
white man was on his way up the ladder. It was a smart young naval 
officer, who presented himself as the governor's assistant. He had come 
to welcome us. We invited him into the lounge for a drink and ex- 
plained why we had anchored here. He told us that in any case the 
weather would have made it impossible to anchor off the village at the 
moment, but he proposed that we move next morning under the lee 
of another cape, which was nearer the inhabited area, and then they 
would try to help us ashore over the rocks. 

We were told that it was just six months since the last ship had 
called; she had been, as might be expected, a Chilean man-of-war. The 
year before they had had a visit from a big luxury liner. The governor 
had been asked whether there was an elevator in the hotel and if there 
was transportation from the landing stage, and when he replied that 
there was no hotel and no landing stage, the passengers were refused 
permission to go ashore. Instead, some of the natives were allowed to 
go on board and sell souvenirs and do a hula dance on deck. And then 
the ship went on to see more of the Pacific. 

"Well, we're going ashore if we have to swim for it," we laughed, 
without a suspicion of how nearly true this was going to be. 

On the way to the ladder the naval officer suggested that we keep 
one of the natives on board to act as a local guide when we made the 
trip round next morning. "They steal like magpies/ 1 he added. "It 

What Awaited Us at the World's Navel 

might be best for you to keep the mayor. Have you been introduced 
to him?" 

I had not. The mayor was fetched by his proud subordinates, and 
they led up to me no other than the thin man with the stone. His shirt 
was now crammed full of the photographer's barter goods. 

"There's no chief any longer, but this is the mayor of Easter Island," 
the naval officer said, clapping the man with the mustache genially on 
the shoulder. "And he's the best wood carver on the island as well." 

"Si, Senor," said the mayor, blushing and laughing and so proud that 
he did not know whether to look up or down, while his friends crowded 
round so as not to be deprived of their share of the honor of having a 
mayor of their own, elected by themselves. Many of the fellows looked 
extremely alert, and there were several robust leader types among 

"Si, Senor," the slightly built man repeated, and drew himself up so 
that one leg of the photographer's old trousers stuck out the front of 
his shirt. "I've been mayor for twenty-eight years. They elect me again 
every time." 

Queer that they elect such a fool, I thought. There appeared to be 
better material to choose from. 

The naval officer had to use his full authority to get the men to 
leave the ship with him; only the mayor remained. Little did I suspect 
that he was to play the chief part in the strangest adventure I had ever 

Early next morning I was awakened by the rattling of anchor chains. 
I jumped into my trousers and went out on deck. The sun was already 
beginning to play over the island, which looked green and yellow and 
friendly now that its night silhouette had been obliterated and the colors 
wakened to life again by the morning sun. The unchangeable statues 
stood far away on the slope. But no one was lighting a fire, no one was 
worshiping the marvelous sunrise, no one was to be seen at all. The 
island lay there as lifeless as if we had been taken for a slave ship and 
everyone had gone underground. 
"Buenos dias, Senor." 


There stood the everlasting mayor again, raising his hat. One of our 
hats. For he had been bareheaded when he came on board the night 

"Buenos dias, Mayor. There's not much life to be seen ashore." 
"No," he said. "This isn't our country any longer, we live in the 
village on the other side. This is only for the Navy's sheep. Look there 
" and he pointed to a round-backed down on which I now saw clearly 
a multitude of sheep, looking like a gray carpet. 

The ship was moving all the time and the bay where we had an- 
chored was lost to sight behind a bluff. I had asked the captain to steer 
around the north coast to get a general impression of most of the 
island before landing. We were gliding along a perpendicular cliff 
where foaming breakers had eaten their way into the volcanic forma- 
tion till the coast was sheer and immensely high. There were gleams of 
reddish-brown and yellowish-gray as in the layers of a cut cake, and 
high up on the crest over our heads we could see green grass and an- 
cient walls which seemed on the verge of tumbling down the precipice. 
Mile followed mile of inaccessible cliffs, till the surface of the island 
changed shape and rolled its stone-strewn fields down toward the sea 
from round grassy hummocks and hillocks in the interior. The green 
never came right down to the surf, for there a tumbled barrier of black 
lava blocks lay like a protecting wall all round the island. Only at one 
place did the landscape really open up, and there the island smiled at 
us, revealing a broad sunlit beach. The whole effect was wonderfully 
beautiful and inviting. 

"Anakena." The mayor inclined his head reverently. "Here at Ana- 
kena the kings lived in old times. It was on this beach, too, that our 
first ancestor Hotu Matua landed." 

"Who lives there now?" 

"Nobody. The shepherds have a hut there." 
I called to the skipper and pointed, and he agreed that this was an 
excellent camping ground. 

As the ship slid by, a barren headland closed the view to the bay. 
Again the same savage lava coast with precipices and loose blocks 
continued right round the island till, at the western end, the land at last 


What Awaited Us at the World's Navel 

ran down in a gentle slope toward the sea. Here lay all the houses of 
the village of Hangaroa. Little white-painted houses set in well-kept 
gardens, sometimes surrounded by solitary palms and scattered trees, 
and on the ridges there were even some fields planted with eucalyptus. 
A fence ran right around the village: the rest of the island was the 
Navy's sheep farm. 

"That's my home," said the mayor, glowing with pride. And it was 
pretty. The mayor could quite justly note that we were all standing 
and staring landward in enchantment; even Anette sat motionless in 
Yvonne's arms, gazing as though hypnotized at the little doll's village 
under the great blue sky. The whole place suddenly began to move: 
everywhere people were running, or galloping on horseback, all in one 
direction, the same as ours, 

"Did you ever see such a place ?" cried Thor Junior. "It's like the 

The captain had hoisted all our colors, and the whole ship was 
bright with a rainbow of bunting as even the code of signals, from 
cholera to mail, rippled in the breeze. We saluted both by siren and 
ensign, and someone replied by running up a Chilean flag on a solitary 
mast on shore. 

The mayor dried his eyes with his shirt sleeve. 

"Seiior," he said. "This is Hotu Matua's country. This is my country. 
I have been mayor here for twenty-eight years. What would Easter 
Island have been without me? Nothing. Easter Island, that's me. I am 
Easter Island." It came with violent emphasis as he struck his chest. 

I thought I saw a Hitler behind the little mustache, but no, I was 
wrong. This fool was infinitely nicer. He was contented with what he 
had, absolutely contented. He did not even want to take back the land 
from the sheep on the other side of the fence. 

"Senor." More rhetoric followed. "We two are the only famous people 
on this island. Everyone knows me. Who knows the governor? People 
have come all the way from Germany to take blood samples from my 
ear, and letters have come from Glasgow and Austria ordering wood 
carvings from the mayor of Easter Island. The world knows me. 
Senor, give me your hand as a friend!" 


When I had done this, he asked politely if he might call me Senor 

We rounded a fresh cape with unusually high and precipitous sides, 
and the village disappeared behind a chaos of perpendicular crags and 
wild little islands of lava which lay like ruined castles and black awls 
at the foot of the ferocious cliff. There were foaming breakers now, 
and the ship was rolling where currents met in a race, with a fierce 
backwash from the rocks. The mayor became seasick and tottered to a 
deck chair, but he managed to mutter something about its being right 
there that the bird-men had been active. He pointed to the grotesque 
wooden figure which Anette had laid in a doll's bed. 

Once past the unquiet cape we came to a kind of open bay where 
the cliffs no longer reached to the sky, although the coast was both 
high and precipitous. The riders and the crowd of people on foot had 
taken a short cut across the cape farther inland, and the green slope 
above the drop to the sea was packed with horses and people. It looked 
as if some of the swarm had spilled onto a narrow sloping promontory 
descending like a dragon's crest to some black lava rocks in the foaming 
breakers, and there they were launching a boat. Another boat was on 
its way out to fetch us, dancing in the seas. Our captain went as far 
in as he could and anchored the ship. The mayor was very busy. 

"In our own dialect 'Good day everyone' is la-o-rana forua" he 
whispered to me. "Call it out when you get ashore, and they'll like you." 
It was a rough trip in through the foaming seas, and I had picked 
only a few men to go along. A frothing crest lifted us up and hurled 
us in round a huge lava block; here the native coxswain made a 
masterly turn and got us more or less into shelter before the next cas- 
cade came rushing on. There was no harbor, no breakwater, only 
nature's wild fantasy. Behind the first sheltering blocks projecting like 
a jetty into the sea stood a long and narrow file of natives up the sloping 
edge of the ridge of lava which descended from the plateau as a kind 
of natural stair. They were all standing motionless, staring. 

"la-o~rana f(prua" I shouted at the top of my voice as we swung 
into their world. 

"la~o-rana \orua" came an avalanche of voices from all the way up 

What Awaited Us at the World's Navel 

the height, and all of a sudden everybody began to move to help us 
ashore. They were a mixed assembly to greet: it looked as if most of 
the island's nine hundred inhabitants were there. They were Poly- 
nesians, but of very mixed blood, and they had all come in some com- 
bination of garments which had a mainland origin. I had hardly got 
out of the dancing boat when a bent old woman with a kerchief on her 
head caught hold of me. 

"A secret, Senor," she whispered hoarsely and produced a basket of 
sweet potatoes. She pushed a large potato aside and eyed temptingly 
the corner of a cloth which lay just under it. 

"Thanks for letting me see it," I said and went on. I had not seen 
anything, but no great secret was likely to be disclosed when the whole 
cliffside was packed with staring people. Many of the men on the 
ledges of the cliff had wooden figures and bags, but no one tried to 
show anything. One by one they muttered ia-o-rana, ia-o-rana, as we 
clambered past them. 

The crest above us was black with waiting natives, and in the 
midst of them stood a solitary white-robed form, his gown fluttering 
in the wind. I guessed at once who he was: Father Sebastian Englert, 
the most powerful man in the whole island. He had written a book 
on Easter Island, and I had heard him spoken of in Chile as the un- 
crowned king of the island. If one made friends with him, all doors 
were opened. But woe to the man he did not like, someone had said 
to me. 

Now he stood before me, broad and straight-backed, with legs apart, 
in a long white robe with a cord round the waist and big, brightly 
polished boots. He was like an apostle or prophet in his white gown 
with the hood thrown back, his bare head and flowing beard against 
an incredibly blue sky. 

I looked into a ruddy face with shrewd wrinkles and searching 
eyes, and held out my hand. 
"Welcome to my island," were his first words. 

I noticed the possessive adjective. 

"Yes, I always say my island," he added, smiling all over his face, 
"for I reckon it as mine and would not sell it for millions." 


I understood that, and said we were prepared to place ourselves 
under his command. 
He laughed. 

"Do you like natives?" he suddenly asked, and looked at me steadily. 

"The more genuine they are, the better ," I replied. 
His face grew sunny. 

"Then we shall be good friends." 

I introduced Gonzalo, the captain, the doctor, and one or two 
others who had come ashore with me, and then we sauntered off to a 
jeep which was standing out in the open, among lumps of lava and 
grazing riding horses. We bumped off across country on a zigzag 
course till we came to some ruts farther inland, which led us down to 
the village. We turned off inside the fence and at last stopped before 
the governor's solitary bungalow. 

A wiry little man in a khaki uniform came out and received us 
cordially, and all formalities were quickly and easily disposed of in his 
office. Now we sat before the two chief people of the island: the old 
sage Father Sebastian and the young commandant Arnaldo Curti, the 
military governor. The first had been there for twenty years and would 
remain there till the end of his days, the other had come on the last 
warship to run the island for two years for the Chilean government. 
Which held the reins experience or power? We soon learned that 
they formed an indivisible whole; they put their heads together daily 
and solved the queerest problems, which can only arise in a most 
unusual community on the world's loneliest island. 

When the captain had submitted the list of the ship's company, 
and the doctor a certificate of good health, there were no more for- 

"Good luck with the digging," the governor said, and shook my 
hand. "We only impose on you two restrictions: you must not give 
the natives arms or alcohol." 

That was fair enough. 

"One thing more," he said, scratching his neck. "You're by no means 
an unknown person among the natives, and you've created something 
of a real problem for us here on the island." 


ABOVE: Our expedition sailed to Easter Island in a converted Greenland 
trawler. BELOW: Lunch on board. From the left: Gonzalo, Bill, myself, 
Yvonne, Anette, the skipper, Carl, Arne, and Ed. 

ABOVE: Thor Junior on the bridge. He was excused from school for an 
adventurous voyage as deck boy. Little Anette quickly picked up South Sea 
ways, and soon could sing in Polynesian and dance the hula. BELOW: Our 
camp at Anakena, on King Hotu Matua's old landing site by the sea. 

To measure an Easter Island head, one must be a good climber. The skipper 
is perched twenty feet above the ground. We wondered how much of the 
statue was hidden beneath the soil. 

ABOVE: Father Sebastian Englert was the uncrowned king of Easter Island 
and the natives' best friend. Captain Arnaldo Curti was the Chilean gover- 
nor, who ruled his happy little community, the loneliest in the world, with 
wisdom and skill. BLLOW: Two of the old Pakarati brothers narrating 

, to the author hv th* Tit^r 1'^'^ in Pino 

What Awaited Us at the World's Navel 

The priest smiled and stroked his beard. 

"Well, at least your ship can take over the guard duties now," he said, 

We did not understand but were given an explanation. When the 
news reached Easter Island that the Kon-Tify raft had passed far to 
the north of them and had come to land safely in the South Sea Islands, 
the natives had been interested. Since their forefathers had been able 
to survive such adventures, why should they themselves do any worse ? 
There was no timber for a raft on the almost treeless island, but some 
fellows knocked together a little open plank boat and went far out to 
sea to fish. The current took them, and Easter Island fell from view. 
They drifted involuntarily westward just as the Kon-Tify had done, 
and landed five weeks later, starving and worn-out, on Reao, an atoll in 
the Tuamotu group, whence they made their way to Tahiti. 

This whetted appetites. Some other men also built an open boat and 
were planning to go to sea, allegedly to fish. The governor had found 
the boat full of water cans, and he smelled a rat. It was dangerous to 
let them go in such a craft, and he ordered the boat hauled up on shore. 
When the natives tried to get away to sea in spite of this, he was obliged 
to set another native as armed guard over the boat. The result was that 
one more man took part in the voyage: the guard put out to sea with 
the others in the dead of night. This boat drifted still farther west than 
the first, and the natives on board did not see land till they jumped 
ashore in the best of spirits at Atiu, a long way beyond Tahiti. 

Now a regular travel fever had set in on Easter Island. Two crews 
had built boats, and these were ready far inland. The whole village 
knew of the intention, and although there were only a handful of white 
men on the island, the governor was obliged to keep one of them on 
guard day and night. 

"If I can tell them that now we can fetch them back with your ship 
if they start, I'll be free of all this watch-keeping," said the governor. 

I gave him my promise. 

"We need guards at other places instead," he said. "The natives steal 
anything up to two thousand sheep in a year from the other side of the 
fence. We have a sort of prison for the worst thieves, but it doesn't help 


much, for the prisoners have to go home for all meals. If we began to 
serve food in the prison, they'd all think of some crime just to be put 
there and fed for nothing, 

"They're grand fellows in other ways," he continued, and Father Se- 
bastian nodded. "If only one understands them. There's never any seri- 
ous disturbance or fighting. Stealing has always been their worst quality, 
but one must remember that they give away just as readily as they 
steal. Property is a thing which passes through their hands very easily; 
it doesn't mean so much as it does with us." 

Father Sebastian promised to pick out some good fellows as extra 
diggers. He would figure out a suitable rate of pay and daily rations. 
Our selection of barter goods had a very high exchange value compared 
to all kinds of gold and notes, for there was no shop or moviehouse on 
the island, not even a barber's. 

We agreed that Anakena Bay on the other side of the island was the 
best place for the main camp of the expedition. There were many rea- 
sons for this: it was the prettiest place on all the coast; it had the only 
decent sandy beach on the island, where we could land all the gear by 
raft; and it was as far as possible from the village, with the minimum 
risk of thieving and other incidents. Moreover, it was the Valley of 
Kings, famous in story, where the legendary Hotu Matua had first 
landed. We could not desire much more. 

After a splendid meal in the governor's bungalow, we returned to the 
ship. There were still swarms of natives on the cliff, and to Father Se- 
bastian's great pleasure all who wished to have a look round on board 
were allowed to do so. I thought they appeared better turned-out today, 
clean, and above all not so ragged as when they first came on board. I 
mentioned this casually to the mayor, who had been home and put on a 
whole shirt. He gave me a crafty smile. 

"That's an old trick of ours," he confessed, giggling. "If we put on old 
rags, we are much better paid for the wood carvings." 

The sea was so rough that not many came out to the ship, and we 
promised to repeat the invitation another time. Just as we were about to 
send the last visitors back to the shore, the skipper came hurrying up 
with the visitors' book. 

What Awaited Us at the World's Navel 

"We must have the names of the people who have been on board," he 
proposed, smiling. He gave the book to one of those who looked the 
brightest, and asked him to get them all to write their names. The fel- 
low took the book and pen and wandered off to the others with a 
thoughtful look on his face. They put their heads together as though in 
profound reflection and muttered rapidly to each other. Then he re- 
turned gravely with the book, without one signature in it. 

"Isn't there anyone who can write his name?" the skipper asked. 

"Yes, many," the man said, " but they won't." 

Gonzalo heard what was said. He took the book and went up to the 
crowd, explaining that since he was a Chilean they might understand 
his Spanish better. But when he tried to make the request, there was 
loud grumbling, and at last it seemed to be blowing up for a regular 
brawl one of the men wanted to throw the visitors' book overboard. I 
had to exercise all my authority to get Gonzalo out of the crowd, and he 
came back with the book, untidy and disheveled. 

"It's quite incredible," he said, "but they refuse to sign. They declare 
that was how their ancestors were tricked into going to be slaves in 

"It isn't possible that they can still have traditions about that," some- 
one said. 

But when we began to figure back, we realized that it was these peo- 
ple's grandfathers who had experienced the slave raid, and the fathers 
of some of them might already have been born at the time. 

The visitors' book was hurriedly removed, and I explained to the 
islanders that they must go ashore now, for we were going to sail. No 
one went, and blowing the siren and starting the engine, with as much 
shrieking and general racket as the engineers could produce, was quite 
ineffective. Finally I had to accompany several of them to the ladder to 
make them clamber down into the two native boats which were waiting. 
When I ordered the others to be rounded up, I saw that one boat was 
rowing off, towing the other, which had suddenly become full of water. 
I shouted to them and asked them to take the others who were on board 
too, and they replied that they would come back as soon as they had 
been ashore and got rid of the passengers and the water. 

Time passed, but no one came back for all our siren-blowing. We 
had to shift our anchorage before darkness fell, and we did not know 
these waters well enough to land people between the lava blocks in our 
own boat. Finally we weighed anchor and left with all our new pas- 
sengers on board. They all took it quite naturally. When our own sup- 
per was ready, the cook served food to our sixteen new passengers, who 
made a hearty meal and then rushed to the rail overcome with seasick- 
ness, for the ship had begun to roll. 

We anchored under the lee of the same cliff as the night before, but 
not even here did we get rid of our passengers. Night fell and it began 
to rain a little. We should be thoroughly robbed in the night, I thought, 
if we let that gang of pirates into the cabins. Accordingly I gave them 
the choice of sleeping on the hatch on deck, or paddling themselves 
ashore in the ship's aluminum raft, in two batches. They chose the raft, 
and we launched it. But then suddenly they all insisted on going in the 
second group, and at last we had to give up the idea of getting rid of 
them. Happy and well-fed, they now produced a guitar and began to do 
a hula dance on the foredeck. This turned out to be a good move. The 
crew had not been ashore or seen a show for a long time, and they were 
all enlivened by the music. Now that we had natives on board whether 
we liked it or not, why not make the best of it ? Song and exciting string 
music, with rhythmical hand-clapping, filled the whole ship, and in the 
surrounding darkness the ship's lantern had the effect of footlights on 
the festive scene. 

"He tere te va\a o Hotu Matua . . . ." The broad humor of our care- 
free pirates was so infectious that scientists and seamen alike had no 
choice but to surrender and join in the dance, singing as best they could. 
Then the mayor suddenly appeared out of the darkness, wet and 
cold. He sat in a little boat with three other natives. After some discus- 
sion we quickly agreed that his party of four should come aboard to 
spend the night on condition that they rowed the sixteen others ashore. 
To make everyone happy I said that the two parties could remain and 
play for another hour. The mayor agreed delightedly. On board he 
asked immediately if his party also could not have a meal such as the 
others had had. 

What Awaited Us at the World's Navel 

"Yes/ 5 1 said diplomatically, "but not till you've taken the other sixteen 

He sauntered cheerfully up to the musicians and clapped in time for 
half a minute. Then he came hurrying back and said that the others 
must absolutely go ashore at once. Otherwise they would get wet and 
cold on the way home. 

All my pleading for them was of no avail, and the fact that the hour 
had just begun made no difference; he began to shout to stop the music. 
So I altered my tactics. 
"For that matter you can quite well have a meal now," I said. 

The mayor rushed straight into the cook's galley without giving the 
musicians a further thought. He just stuck his head out, with his mouth 
full of food, to see if the three others were following him. 

But he kept his word, and when the hour was over the native boat, 
full of laughter and music, was tossing about on her way toward the 
dark coast. It had been a successful party. 
"Ohoi! He tere te vaf^a o Hotu Matua. . . " 

So it happened that we arrived at the Valley of the Kings early next 
morning, with the mayor of the World's Navel asleep on the lounge 





our first patrol went round on the plain in from the beach 
looking for the best place to put up the tents. But as we walked a single 
rider appeared over the ridge, and a native shepherd jumped off his 
horse and came up to greet us. He said he had a little whitewashed stone 
cottage on the western side of the valley and was responsible for the 
sheep in that part of the island. When we told him we had come to live 
in the Anakena Valley, he immediately pointed to a little gully with 
several good-sized caves in it. He told us that they were Hotu Matua's 
caves. The first king and all his companions had lived there when they 
landed on the shore. Afterward they had built large huts of fresh-water 
reeds. He spoke of Hotu Matua as naturally as an Englishman would 
speak of Queen Victoria. It was unthinkable to him that there were peo- 
ple who did not know about Hotu Matua : he was the alpha and omega 
in the conceptions of Easter Island, a sort of hybrid between the Adam 
of religion and the Columbus of history. 


When I told him that we had no need to live in caves because we 
had with us ready-made huts of watertight cloth, he at once pointed in 
the opposite direction. 

"If you've got canvas, you can sleep just across the beach on Hotu 
Matua's old site, 1 ' he said. 

He accompanied us over the plain to a flat area at the foot of a little 
dome-shaped hill. Everywhere were traces of vanished greatness. Inland 
from the center of the beach, and on each side, were three templelike 
terraces built of colossal blocks of stone, facing the sea. They lay just 
above the sandy beach and would have had the appearance of fortresses 
protecting the plain against attack from the sea if several large yellow- 
ish-gray human forms in stone had not lain prostrate on the flat area 
behind them, showing that the terraces had served as a foundation for 
the statues. All these colossi had fallen face downward and with the tops 
of their heads pointing inland, which indicated that before they fell, they 
must have stood with their backs toward the sea, looking inward across 
an open temple square. By the central terrace a whole row of fallen 
giants lay side by side, and huge cylinders of rust-red stone which once 
had been balanced on the tops of their heads had tumbled off and lay 
on the plain. 

The lofty and imposing terrace in the easternmost corner of the bay 
had had only a single statue, but lying where it did, with its face buried 
in the earth, this appeared broader-backed and bulkier than its slender 
relatives on the next terrace. It was next to this broad giant that King 
Hotu Matua himself had lived. The shepherd pointed reverently to the 
solid foundation wall of the king's old house still visible on the ground, 
and just behind it was a curious five-sided stone oven which indicated 
the king's own kitchen. Here, of course, we should dig, so we marked 
out the campsite close by, on the flat temple square in front of the fallen 
giant's head. 

The shepherd looked on with great interest and kept repeating that 
this was the king's old site, till he was sure that we all completely under- 
stood where we were. He got a pack of cigarettes for his help and rode 
on well pleased. 

Soon after this we began to land the equipment. On a tiny raft of 

In Volcanic Gas Tunnels 

aluminum pontoons we first rowed about in the bay with a couple of 
the natives who had stayed on our ship the night before, to study the 
rocks and breakers. The beach near the middle of the bay had no stones 
and the surf was slight, so we landed the photographer with all his 
camera outfit. Then we went out again toward the landing boat, which 
was waiting halfway between the ship and ourselves. When we were 
well under way, we saw a great roller toss the ship's boat high in the air 
as she made off seaward with her engine at full speed to avoid the 
clutches of a still bigger sea which was just rising. We rowed after her 
as hard as we could and weathered the first sea, but the second came 
rolling toward us ever higher and steeper, and in a moment we were 
flung up against a perpendicular wall of water and felt the raft whirling 
round bottom uppermost. I got a nasty bump on the head, but dived to 
the bottom as quickly as I could to avoid another blow from the pon- 
toons. I kept my eyes shut to keep out the whirling sand and swam as 
far and as deep as I could before I had to come up for air. By that time 
the others were already clambering up onto the bottom of the capsized 
raft, and the seas were as normal as before. 

This was a valuable lesson to have had before we began to land in- 
dispensable equipment. Even if big seas were rare, we had always to be 
on the watch for unexpectedly big breakers which now and then came 
rolling in through Anakena Bay when we least wished it. To avoid 
them we anchored our largest life raft out in the bay, like a kind of 
floating pier, well outside the danger zone of the breakers. The landing 
boat could safely go in as far as this pier with equipment from the ship, 
and here everything was transferred to the tiny pontoon raft, which 
could ride with the breakers right onto the beach so long as none of the 
worst seas were in sight. 

The whole transport of personnel and equipment between ship and 
shore was effected in this manner; the landing boat was directed by 
blasts of the siren from the ship and flag signals from the shore. On the 
last lap through the surf there was always cursing and laughter and wet 
trousers. It was often so rough that the cook and the steward had to 
swim ashore with their newly baked bread in watertight rubber bags. 
But if the water was slightly cold, the sandy beach ashore was warm and 


pleasant, and we were all of us happy in the sun-steeped Valley of the 

Soon one green tent sprang up beside another, and formed a peaceful 
little village in the temple square between the old fallen giant and the 
house in which Hotu Matua's dynasty had begun. Our four native 
friends, who had been helping with the landing of the equipment, were 
vastly impressed when they came up behind the great wall and saw 
where we had pitched our tents. The mayor drew a deep breath and said 
solemnly : 

"Sefior, Hotu Matua built his first house right there. See, there is the 
foundation wall and there the kitchen." 

Although this was repeated by the natives over and over again, no one 
seemed to object to our choice of a site. Before night fell the four natives 
caught some unsaddled horses, and then they thanked us and rode off 
in the direction of the village. 

I was long in getting to sleep that night. I lay gazing at the moon- 
light on the thin green tent cloth over my head and listening to the surf 
on the beach where Hotu Matua had landed. I wondered what sort of a 
craft he had had, what language he had spoken. 

What did this valley look like when he came? Were there woods 
here then, as on all the other South Sea Islands? Was it perhaps Hotu 
Matua's descendants who had cut the timber and burned the logs, and 
finally destroyed all the woodland till there was not a single tree to give 
shade over all the rolling downs ? I was a little uneasy when I thought of 
this complete lack of trees and shrubs on all the plains and hills. Perhaps, 
after all, it was true that it was useless to dig in the earth of Easter 
Island. Perhaps it had always looked as it did today, since there were no 
plants to rot and make the soil rise year by year into strata. But for the 
sand dunes on the shore and the sheep's dung among the stones, it 
looked as if the ground, dry and grudging, had lain there unchanged 
from Hotu Matua's day. 

In fact, since Hotu Matua's own foundation wall lay visible above 
ground and was pointed out as a regular tourist attraction, the soil was 
obviously meager, and the chances of new discoveries equally so. Louder 

In Volcanic Gas Tunnels 

thunder peals came from some of the breakers on the shore, and I 
rubbed the bump on my head. Now that we had managed to get here, 
we would certainly not give up without at least attempting to dig before 
going on to the other islands on our program. 

During our first days ashore the archaeologists went out on recon- 
naissance tours to the east and west, while the rest of us brought the 
equipment ashore and organized the details of the expedition's opera- 
tions. There was not a brook on the whole island, but down in the 
craters of three of the old volcanoes there were marshes and partially 
open water, full of reeds. We should have to carry both wood and drink- 
ing water four miles from Vaitea, the sheep farm up on the high ground 
in the middle of the island. Here a little eucalyptus grove had been 
planted by Europeans in our own century, and here there was drinking 
water in a pipe from the volcano Rano Aroi. When the first Europeans 
reached the island they found the land as barren as we know it today, 
except for some clusters of trees at the bottom of the deepest crater, Rano 
Kao. Apart from driftwood and modern importation, these original 
toro miro trees at the bottom of the crater have supplied wood-carving 
material for the Easter Islanders until the present day. 

One calm day, when the Greenland trawler had gone round to the 
anchorage in Hangaroa Bay, the governor lent us a stout homemade 
lighter which the natives rowed out to the ship, and we succeeded in 
getting the expedition's jeep brought into the village. With this trans- 
portation our wood and water supplies were secured. 

There were traces of ancient roads on Easter Island, and the manager 
of the sheep farm had increased the network of roads by having the 
worst of the stones moved away so that one could bump along in a jeep 
right across the island, which is about ten miles long. Father Sebastian 
and the governor helped us obtain plenty of horses and homemade 
wooden saddles. Even the poorest natives had at least one riding horse 
each on this island: nobody went on foot because fragments of lava lay 
strewn all over the ground like great lumps of reddish-brown and black 
coke, often so close that only a horse's hoofs could find room between 
them. Easter Island children learn to ride as soon as they can walk, and 
we often saw the tiniest of tots galloping over the stony fields bareback, 


three at a time, each clinging to the next and the one in front holding 
tight to the horse's mane. 

Along the coast there were a number of wells of great antiquity, dug 
in masterly fashion and lined with cut stone. The original population 
had accustomed themselves to drinking brackish water, which they ob- 
tained by intercepting a few subterranean streams which they had 
detected as they came out into the sea below the ocean surface. Wind- 
mills had now been erected over these ancient stone-lined wells. They 
pumped the brackish water up to the sheep, and here we watered the 
horses and fetched a supply to the camp for washing. 

Meanwhile the boatswain, who was also the carpenter, made shelves 
and tables for the big mess tent, where walls of mosquito netting 
enabled us to eat and work undisturbed by dense swarms of flies, im- 
ported long since, which whirled round us. 

"We'll have to let down the tent wall on the side the wind comes 
from," said Yvonne. "There's dust coming in through the mosquito 

"Dust here on the island?" 

"Yes, look here," she said, and made a distinct streak along the book- 
shelf with her forefinger. 

I looked on with great satisfaction. In a hundred years or so there 
would be a pretty thick layer to brush away. Perhaps it would be worth 
while to dig on Easter Island after all! Just because there was no wood- 
land, wind and weather probably got a firmer grip on the hills and sent 
a shower of fine dry earth over the lowlands like a fall of snow. No 
doubt most of it drifted into the sea, but some of it, perhaps, up onto 
the grass slopes. 

The archaeologists came back from their reconnaissance tours with 
interesting reports. They had seen old walls which they wished to ex- 
amine later, because there were indications that possibly two different 
civilizations had built on the island before the Europeans came. That 
they might get to know local conditions better, it was decided that they 
should first undertake some minor excavations near the camp at Ana- 
kena before setting about their main tasks. 

The first choice was Hotu Matua's five-sided kitchen oven and the 


In Volcanic Gas Tunnels 

boat-shaped foundation wall just beside it. Excavation of this kind is 
done not with pickax and spade, but with a little mason's trowel where- 
by one scrapes down into the ground, a fraction of an inch at a time, so 
as not to injure what is found. The earth which is scraped away is 
shaken through fine-meshed netting so that anything of interest is left 
lying on the top of the sieve. The depth beneath the turf is noted exactly, 
for, of course, the deeper one gets the older the findings are. 

Just beneath the turf lay a fragment of an old stone bowl, spearheads, 
and other sharp implements of black volcanic glass. And as the archaeol- 
ogists scraped their way down, they found bits of fishhooks made both of 
human bone and of prettily polished stone. When they had got a foot 
down into the earth beside Hotu Matua's oven, the trowel scraped 
against some stones, and as soon as they had cleared the earth away, they 
saw that it was another five-sided oven, of exactly the same type as that 
which lay above ground. If the uppermost one was constructed by Hotu 
Matua, the traditional discoverer of the island, who had been here be- 
fore and cooked his food in just the same way? The natives did not 
understand at all. They themselves and all visitors had accepted the 
ruins above ground as Hotu Matua's, for this was quite certainly the 
place where he had lived. 

We scraped our way farther down and found many fragments of 
fishhooks, shell, bone splinters, charcoal, and human teeth, till we were 
far down in the earth beneath the lower oven. We must be far back in 
antiquity now. Then Bill dug up a pretty blue Venetian pearl, and rec- 
ognized it as a type Europeans had used in dealing with the Indians two 
hundred years ago. So we had not got so deep as to be beyond the scope 
of the first European visits. The earliest date at which the pearl could 
have been brought to Easter Island was that of its discoverer Rogge- 
veen; we had, therefore, not yet dug farther down than the year 1722. 

We looked up Roggeveen's log on the discovery of Easter Island, and 
found that the first native who boarded his ship had been presented with 
two strings of blue pearls, a small mirror, and a pair of scissors. Nothing 
was more natural than that some of these pearls should have found their 
way to the king's house at Anakena. We dug a little way further down, 
and then we came upon mere rubble without a sign of human activity. 


One thing was certain now: there had been a soil or sand deposit 
over the years on treeless Easter Island. It would be worth while to dig. 
We should have to enlist native labor, for one or two of the projects we 
had in mind required more men than we ourselves could muster. 

We had seen very little of the natives in these few days. To avoid 
thieving and intrigue, Father Sebastian had expressly asked us to keep 
the camp closed to natives who had no special duties. It was no use try- 
ing to prevent our men from becoming acquainted with the merry 
vahines of the island, and that he fully realized. But if the boys wanted 
to amuse themselves, they would have to ride over to the village. Other- 
wise the whole village would soon move over to us. We agreed to this 
arrangement, and strung a rope ail round the camp as a kind of sym- 
bolic frontier of the "taboo" area. It was on the whole surprisingly effec- 
tive. Of course, no one but a handful of shepherds really had any 
occasion to roam about on this side of the island, for the natives were 
restricted by the fence on their side, to keep them from stealing sheep. 
But such limitation of movement was not easy to enforce on a small 

One of the first nights two water cans were stolen from the camp 
area, and the thin rope which marked off our "taboo" ground was cut 
and carried away. Father Sebastian thought it was stolen as gear for one 
of the small rafts which were preparing to put to sea. The governor then 
sent Kasimiro and Nicholas to patrol the area. They were the village's 
two native policemen. 

Old Kasimiro was as tall and thin as Nicholas was fat and round; he 
had, moreover, a striking resemblance to the shambling, round-should- 
ered, weird figure in the Easter Island collection of wood carvings. If the 
figure had not already been known in Captain Cook's time, Kasimiro 
might have been suspected of having sat for it. Kasimiro had a big 
leather holster at his side, containing an old-fashioned revolver, and if 
he caught sight of any of his countrymen, irrespective of sex or age, he 
howled and yelled and brandished his revolver till they disappeared in 
a cloud of dust. Then he came back, stooping and swaying, and sat 
down on the "taboo" ground in the shelter of the tent. 

We liked old Kasimiro. He seemed a little weak in the head, but 

In Volcanic Gas Tunnels 

was extremely good-natured and modest. Nicholas was a pleasant fellow 
too, but no one seemed to feel sorry for him. The daintiest leftovers from 
the cookhouse always went first to the skinny old man, who ate as he 
had never done in all his life. He loafed about in the shade of the tent 
with his trouser pockets full of valuables in the shape of our cigarettes, 
twirling his big revolver. Kasimiro was in seventh heaven. 

One day he thought he must do something in return for all our hos- 
pitality. He came to my tent and confided in a low voice that there was 
a cave with "important things" in it out on the bird-men's island. He 
had been there when quite a small boy with his father and a few other 
children. His father had told the children to wait while he went behind 
a rock where he crawled into a secret cave. Kasimiro had never seen the 
opening, which was blocked by stones, but if I would take him out 
there in our boat, without anyone in the village knowing about it, he 
would point out the spot where he himself had stood waiting, and if I 
found the cave, we would share the treasure. The old man's eyes shone. 

I did not take this too seriously. Both the Routledge expedition and 
Father Sebastian had received similar offers. When they had gained the 
natives' confidence, there was always someone who knew of a region 
in which there was a secret, sealed-up cave. In caves such as these their 
ancestors had hidden ancient tablets of wood marked with hieroglyph- 
ics, rongo-rongo in the island language. These rongo-rongo tablets were 
worth a real fortune, for there were only a score of them in all the world's 
museums put together. The natives knew that quite well, and when- 
ever someone agreed to take a party to such a secret rongo-rongo cave, 
the only result was a lot of futile searching. It was always impossible to 
find the concealed entrance. A pity, they said, now the opening was 
gone, covered up by a landslide. 

Our first Sunday came. 

Father Sebastian had hinted that we should be welcome at the 
church if we would like to hear the natives sing. I called all the men 
together, scientist and sailor alike, and explained that church was some- 
thing very special down here in the South Seas. It was not merely the 
sole stable clement in the natives' world, a center where they found 

a longed-for replacement for their old belief in Tiki and Make-Make; it 
was also the only social meeting place where the whole population came 
together in their best clothes, because there was usually no assembly hall, 
theater, or market place. On some of the islands the natives were Protes- 
tants, on others Catholics or Mormons; it all depended on what mission- 
ary had come to the place first and built a church. The natives often be- 
came fanatics for their church: if one stayed away on Sunday, one could 
stay away for the rest of the week too. And if visitors did not attend, it 
was interpreted as a demonstration, an attack from a hostile quarter. It 
was easy for an uninformed person to put his foot in it. 

"I'm an atheist and never go to church," said one of our men. "But if 
you think it has any importance, I'll come with pleasure." 

So off we went in a crowd, atheists, Protestants, and Catholics, at a 
gallop on the camp horses with the jeep bumping along in the midst, 
to assemble outside Father Sebastian's little village church. 

The church square sparkled with white and colored dresses: the 
whole village stood waiting in freshly washed and ironed Sunday 
clothes. We walked into the little spireless church among reverent men 
and vahines, children and adults, aged people, newborn and unborn 
babies. Inside there was such a crowd that those who sat at the end of 
the rows could get only half of themselves onto the wooden benches. 
The village now lay empty in the sun, but there was sunshine in Father 
Sebastian's church too: bright colors, bright faces, and the sun itself sent 
pencils of light through the gaps between roof and walls. By the same 
route a few little birds had crept in, and they flew about fearlessly, 
twittering and singing among the rafters. 

Father Sebastian had put on a chasuble of spring green over his 
white robe and stood there big and amiable, like a kindly grandfather 
with his great beard. The atmosphere in the church was that of an opera. 
The climax of the service was the singing. The hymns were sung in 
Polynesian, and most of them to old native tunes. Every single voice in 
the church took part except our own. We used only our ears, for this 
was an experience: the perfectly executed singing had rhythm and color 
which only South Sea natives can achieve. 

Father Sebastian's ceremony was simple, and what he said was wise 

In Volcanic Gas Tunnels 

and put clearly. Around us our native friends and all their lively vahines 
sat squeezed close together, following his every word, as enthralled by 
what they heard as children watching a cowboy film. There was a spe- 
cial word of welcome for us strangers: Might all go well for the expedi- 
tion, and might all the men and women on the island do everything in 
their power to help us, for even if we had not all the same creed as they, 
we were all Christians with the same ideals. 

From that day we became, so to speak, a part of the population : if 
Father Sebastian accepted us, we were certainly decent people. 

After the service all the members of the expedition were invited to a 
splendid dinner at the governor's. Here, besides our hosts and Father Se- 
bastian, we met the tiny white colony: two of the nuns who managed 
the leper station north of the village, the Chilean Air Force captain who 
was preparing plans for a future transoceanic airport on the island, and 
the governor's two assistants. The only persons not there were the vil- 
lage doctor and the schoolmaster; these two we had never seen, not even 
in church. I noted that our own doctor was invited to attend the gover- 
nor, who had heart trouble. 

As we were going home to camp in the evening, we were stopped 
by a little thickset fellow with jet-black eyes and stiff black hair. It was 
the village doctor, and he invited everyone to a hula dance. This was so 
popular that it was useless to say no. 

The dancing was held in a little house belonging to a sister of the 
mayor's. It was so packed when we arrived that people had to climb out 
of the open windows for us to be able to get in at the door. To my alarm 
I saw that a large pitcher containing a whisky-colored liquid was going 
round, from which glasses were being filled to the brim. But it proved 
to be agua pura, "pure water," collected from the drips off the roof. The 
prevailing atmosphere was not the less merry and lively, and roars of 
laughter and jokes in four languages shook the roof when the vahines 
dragged shy sailor lads and stiff-legged scientists out on the dance floor 
and made them wriggle like eels on a hook. Four men were playing the 
guitar and singing. There was such a racket, and such a crowd that the 
walls would have bulged out if there had not been still more people out- 
side pressing at them, trying to get a glimpse through the packed win- 

dows. In the midst of it all the village doctor pushed up to me, wanting 
to engage me in deep political discussion. 

"My aim is to open the window of the world for these people," he said. 
A good thing too, I thought, for there would soon be no air left in 
the room. But he did not mean it like that, and I had to resign myself to 
going outside and listening to his earnest words. 

He and the schoolmaster were in opposition to the other white peo- 
ple on the island. 

"We have Indian blood in our veins," he said, pointing to two flashing 
black eyes. "We want the natives to get away from this island and learn 
to know the world on the mainland." 

And Father Sebastian doesn't want that, I thought. For he is afraid 
of their drinking themselves out of their senses when they get to a place 
where they have unrestricted access to alcohol. He is afraid of their 
being exploited and going to the dogs. 

"We want to raise the standard of living to a modern level," the doc- 
tor continued. "We want those who now go barefoot to wear shoes." 

And Father Sebastian thinks that's a mistake, I thought. For I had 
once heard him say that natives who had never worn shoes fared best, 
both ashore and at sea, on this island where footwear was quickly worn 
out by the sharp lava stones. Those who had begun to wear white man's 
shoes got thin skin on their leathery soles, and cut themselves to ribbons 
every time their shoes gave way. No, I thought, there are two sides to 
all these questions, and Father Sebastian has had a generation in which 
to think the matter over, while the young doctor had come with the last 

In the meantime the dance went on, shoes or no shoes, and when we 
finally made for the Valley of the Kings we all agreed we had got to 
know a truly friendly people. 

We had now secured a large body of native workers. Some lived at 
home in the village and rode over every morning, others moved into 
caves near the excavations. To free as many of our own people as possi- 
ble, we had engaged four vahines to help us with camp work and wash- 
ing. One of them, Eroria, was a first-rate woman and a tireless worker. 


In Volcanic Gas Tunnels 

She looked like a rising thundercloud to those who did not know her. 
But it was easy to conjure up her good spirits, and then the cloud van- 
ished like morning dew as her rough face lit up with a dazzling smile. 
She had been Father Sebastian's housekeeper for years, but was lent to 
us to look after the camp due to her complete reliability. 

Eroria and her old gray-haired sister-in-law Mariana were, curiously 
enough, the keenest cave hunters on the island. They crisscrossed the 
hills with a pocketful of candles, searching for old dwelling caves, where 
they dug in the floor with a small iron bar to discover their ancestors' 
stone and bone tools for Father Sebastian's little collection. 

"It's only in the caves there's any use looking for things/' said Father 
Sebastian. "Take Eroria and Mariana and get them to show you all the 
old caves they've found." 

When the rest of our party were well under way with the excavations, 
we saddled four horses, and the photographer and I, with Eroria and 
Mariana, rode off to reconnoiter caves. On the first day we were in and 
out of dark caves from morning till night. Some were quite open, and 
we could bend down and walk in. Others were carefully blocked up 
with stones, so that only a little rectangular opening was left through 
which we could crawl in on all fours. But most of them were mere rat- 
holes, into which we could neither walk or crawl, but had to push our 
legs in with stiff knees and keep our arms stretched over the head while 
wriggling the body like a snake through a long and horribly narrow 
shaft. The shaft always had smooth walls, often of skillfully cut blocks. 
In some caves it went in through the rock like a horizontal channel, or 
sloped downward; but in others it went down into the ground perpen- 
dicularly like a chimney, and we had to brake with thighs and shoulders 
till we came down through the roof into one corner of a pitch-black 
cave. In most of these caves the roof was so low that we had to stoop, 
and in some we could only stand doubled up or merely sit. 

In these subterranean cave dwellings the old-time population of 
Easter Island had lived, at any rate in an uneasy period when they did 
not feel themselves safe in the reed huts up in the fresh air. Here they 
had taken cover when the early European ships had called. Most of 
these dwelling caves were of the size of an average bathroom, and it was 

so dark that we could not see our own hand without stretching it out 
into the mouth of the narrow shaft. The floor was cold earth, deep and 
rich from former refuse, and as hard as an automobile tire from the 
contact of a thousand crawling hands and knees. Roof and walls were 
naked rock, often improved here and there with artistically laid ma- 

At one place we scrambled down into something which resembled 
a huge open well with walled sides. At the bottom we had to creep into 
a narrow hole, and beyond that three spacious caves lay aslant, one 
above the other in levels. Eroria treated this cave with special reverence. 
Her own grandfather had lived there; it was her family seat. The floor 
here had been thoroughly turned up by the two vahines' iron rod. I 
picked up from the loose earth a sawn-off piece of human bone, bored 
through at the end as an amulet to hang around the neck. 

A little farther down toward the coast Mariana pointed out an over- 
grown foundation wall, the remains of one of the old boat-shaped reed 
huts of which we saw traces everywhere. Her own father-in-law, 
Eroria's father, had been born there. There he had lived during the last 
generation till the whole population of the island had moved to the 
village of Hangaroa to be Christianized. 

So it's no longer ago than that, I thought, and looked bewildered at 
the two trousered vahines, who from their appearance and manner 
might have had ancestors civilized since the time of Noah. The founda- 
tion wall was of the shape and dimensions of the rail of a fair-sized row- 
boat, pointed at both ends and composed of perfectly cut and often 
prettily curved stones of hard basalt, with rows of deep holes on the 
top into which pliant boughs had once been stuck to form the crisscross 
foundation of the curved reed hut. If all the reed huts whose walls we 
found all over the island had been in use at the same time, Easter Island 
must once have had a considerable population. 

The two vahines had found an immense number of old dwelling 
caves. In most of them they had already wrought havoc with their iron 
rod, but they also showed us the way to some holes which were not yet 
"opened" that is to say, no one had visited them since the last inhab- 
itant had moved out and rolled lava blocks in front of the opening. 


In Volcanic Gas Tunnels 

Once when I had rolled one of these blocks out of the way to slide down 
into the narrow hole, a motionless colony of fourteen scorpions lay 
under the stone. Another time the opening was so narrow between the 
rocks that I had to empty my pockets and have several tries, without my 
shirt on, before I was able to force my body through. Down in the dark- 
ness my flashlight shone on human bones and a snow-white skull. I 
tilted the skull cautiously, and under it lay a glistening black obsidian 
spearpoint and an old wasps' nest. I thanked my stars that the nest was 
not inhabited, for if it were, I should have been badly swollen before I 
managed to squeeze myself back up that narrow opening. 

On our way home in the afternoon we rode over a stony plateau on 
the high ground west of the camp. The ground was flat, with a mass of 
lava stones strewn thickly over the earth, often in low, compact heaps. 
We dismounted at one of these heaps, for Mariana's son had told her 
that he had found there the descent to a cave of "the other kind," a 
refuge cave. How anyone could find the right heap of lava in that large 
stone-strewn area was more than I could understand, especially as 
Mariana had only been given the "address" of this cave by word of 
mouth. But, on the other hand, she might never have been able to find 
her way about the labyrinth of a city's streets. 

By this time the photographer and I had been trained by the two 
descendants of the cave dwellers to be regular experts in slithering in 
and out and up and down narrow shafts. We followed blindly their 
advice always to work our way feet first, with our arms stretched over 
our heads, and, if the shaft was not perpendicular, always on our backs 
with our faces turned upward. 

But this time old Mariana first shone her light carefully down 
through the rectangular, perpendicular funnel. Then she asked me to 
look in a particular direction while working the lower part of my body 
down into the hole. The force of gravity drew me slowly down while 
thighs and shoulders braked against the stone-lined shaft. It was so 
narrow that my arms had to be stretched straight up and held close to- 
gether over my head. This time the funnel came to a dead end and I 
stood immured at the bottom with my arms helplessly jammed together 
pointing upward. There was a rectangular hole at the base of one wall, 

and I maneuvered my legs into it while I slowly let my body sink down 
into a stiff-legged sitting position, with heavy masonry above my lap 
and closely surrounding my head and chest. Next my body had to fol- 
low the stiff knees into the narrow side channel, and I wriggled down, 
with my arms still squeezed behind me, till at last I lay stretched on my 
back in the horizontal funnel. 

Give me a modern apartment building with an elevator! 

It is a horrible feeling to lie closely walled-up down underground 
with rock right in your face and your arms forced back over your head 
so that you cannot use them. With arms trapped, you feel especially 
helpless. The solid rock walls seem to press more closely than ever 
round your head, and they cry, "Hands up, you're a prisoner." You 
ought not to hear this cry, nor ought you to try to free your arms, for 
it can't be done. You ought to think of nothing and only shove your- 
self along feet first by twisting the shoulder blades and dragging with 
the heels till you notice that you can bend your knees and kick about 
in an empty space or that you cannot get any farther along the shaft 
because the soles of your feet have met solid rock. 

If this happens, it means that the funnel makes another right-angle 
turn, and a man lying there with his arms over his head has to turn 
onto his stomach and grope along feet first between the narrow rock 
walls into a new perpendicular shaft which ends in a last cunning turn. 
Here he remains entombed in a hideous grip until he manages to twist 
himself round by force to enter a second horizontal funnel, where the 
walls suddenly disappear. Now at last he is about to enter the cave, and 
a moment later he can pull his arms down, he is free, he can brush away 
the sand round his eyes and do what he likes, so long as he does not 
bump his head against the roof before he turns on his flashlight. 

I had been in two or three of these caves before I learned to tow a 
light along with me. Only then could I see the narrow shaft behind me 
as I moved along. It was always neatly walled with smooth stone blocks 
without mortar, and was built with square cross section like a chimney. 
Some of the stones had symmetrical holes bored in them, and proved to 
be polished stones taken from the foundation walls of old reed houses. 
This showed that the builders of these cave entrances had pulled down 


In Volcanic Gas Tunnels 

the idyllic reed houses of their predecessors to construct these wretched 
rattraps instead. 

For this first wriggle down into a cave of "the other kind/* my 
pockets had been carefully emptied. I had not even taken a matchbox 
with me, and the floor was slippery and full of surprises; so I simply 
remained where I was, waiting in the dark like a blind man. When I 
turned my ear toward the shaft, I could hear someone coming down 
after me. In a few minutes old Mariana stood beside me and lit her 
trusty candle stump. It was of little use. The flame was so weak in the 
intense darkness down in the black rock that all I could see was Mari- 
ana's flashing eyes, surrounded by deep, shadowy wrinkles and a fluffy 
cobweb of ashen-gray hair, like a grotesque face against a windowpane. 
She gave me another candle stump and lit it from her own. When we 
held the lights up, we could gradually make out bulges and projections 
in the wall. Some obsidian spearheads lay on the floor. 

Now Eroria too arrived. It took some time, with a good deal of 
scuffling and panting in the shaft, but she came. They told me that this 
was not an ordinary dwelling: it was a refuge for use in wartime only, 
for no enemy could reach people here. If so, the wars must have been 
many and of long duration, judging from the thickness of the hard- 
trodden layer of refuse at the bottom of the cave. I never understood 
how anyone dared to crawl down into these ratholes in wartime; the 
enemy had only to fill up the shaft with stones, and the occupants 
would be hermetically sealed up forever. But perhaps the trick was to 
keep these refuges secret. If they did that, and rolled a stone over the 
little opening behind them, it would be a hard task to find the fugitives. 

I found a small channel between the stones in one of the walls, and 
I crawled in with Mariana and Eroria at my heels. We entered another 
and larger cave, and after wriggling through a little hole in the back 
wall of this we came into a large room, so high that we could not see 
the roof with our candles. We continued on our way through the rock : 
some places were as high and wide as a railway tunnel, at others we had 
to crawl among stones and rubble, and at some we had to lie flat on our 
stomachs and shove ourselves along till the roof rose again in a large 

Each time I looked round to be sure the others were following, I saw 
Mariana's wrinkled face close behind me; she would not let me get an 
inch away from her. She taught me to look out for loose blocks in the 
roof and holes and cracks in the floor. In one of the rooms there was 
underground water. It was running across our route and trickling down 
a side passage into which we also crept. Ancient people had been at 
work here and cut a narrow gutter in the floor of the cave to collect 
water, and the gutter led down into several artificially cut depressions 
like washtubs. I rinsed my hands in the lowest depression, filled them in 
the uppermost one, and drank. Compared to tap water this tasted like 
the choicest wine cold, clear, and full-flavored. I wondered if the old 
cave dwellers had not known more about the grading of water than 
we who only get a third-class quality out of a metal pipe. 

Far inside the rock the cave split into branches several times, and the 
innermost passages took the form of narrow catacombs with a level 
floor, and roof and walls arched in a pretty curve without a sign of 
unevenness. It looked like the work of man, but these were only chan- 
nels made by gas and streams of hot lava forcing their way through the 
molten rock at the time when Easter Island was just an erupting 
volcano. For long stretches the smoothly polished archways shrank and 
became so narrow that they closed round my outstretched body as 
though tailormade. Some of them terminated far into the rock in small 
bell-shaped domes, while others were blocked up with stones or became 
so narrow that it was useless to go on. 

Later we visited several of these huge caves with room after room 
like pearls on a string running down through the underworld. Their 
entrances were all skillfully walled up, so that one could get down only 
through the narrow funnels cut with sharp angles or zigzags, in which 
any assailant would be completely helpless. There was water in some 
of the largest caves; two of them had regular subterranean ponds, and 
right down at the bottom of a third we found a walled well of ice-cold 
water, surrounded by a stone pavement and a well-built terrace some 
ten feet high. 

One of these great refuge caves could have accommodated the 
whole population of Easter Island, but everything indicated that each 

In Volcanic Gas Tunnels 

cave had belonged to a separate family or group of families at a time 
when bloody civil wars had raged on the island, and no one could sleep 
securely in his old reed house. I thought, as I walked about in this first 
pitch-dark refuge, that it had been foolish of these people living on a 
sunny South Sea island to choose this way of life in preference to keep- 
ing the peace with their neighbors up in the sunshine. But then I came 
to think of the twentieth-century world, in which we too have gradually 
begun to bury ourselves and our most important installations in shelters 
deep down in the earth, frightened because we ourselves and our neigh- 
bors have begun to play about with the atom bomb. Then I forgave 
Eroria's and Mariana's primitive grandparents, and as visions of past 
and future combined to haunt the darkness around me, I began hur- 
riedly to wriggle up the long zigzag shaft. I felt profoundly happy 
when I escaped into the dazzling sun of the present, surrounded only 
by grazing sheep and horses dozing in the salt sea breeze. 

It had taken us eighty minutes to crawl and walk through all the 
passages in this first great cave, and when we came up again we found 
the photographer, who had had a serious fright. Halfway down the 
shaft claustrophobia had overtaken him, and he had preferred to strug- 
gle up again and wait. Up till then it had never taken us more than a 
few minutes to look at a cave dwelling, and after waiting patiently for 
three-quarters of an hour, he had become uneasy, so he put his head 
down the shaft and called to us. When no one answered from below, 
he really became anxious. He had yelled and shouted down the hole 
so that the shaft resounded. But the only person who heard him was 
old Kasimiro, who came hurrying from a long way off, brandishing his 
revolver. He stood waiting faithfully at the photographer's side as we 
came crawling up out of the hole. 

Mariana picked up her big reed hat from a stone. She begged us 
always to take a hat with us, or something else which we could leave 
behind on the ground if we crept down into these holes alone. Some 
Chilean treasure seekers had once been down in one of the caves with 
a native, she told us, and while they were deep below their lamp went 
out and they lost their way completely in the dark. Their lives were 
saved by their caps and jackets which they had thrown off up above, 

for a native found these and realized that the men were underground. 

Our archaeologists dug up the floor in a number of caves. The in- 
habitants had dropped all their rubbish where they sat, and the floor, 
therefore, had often risen toward the roof. Fishbones and shells lay 
there in masses, mingled with bones of fowls and an occasional turtle. 
Even rats and human beings had figured on the menu, baked among 
glowing stones in the earth. Cannibals had lived in these caves; apart 
from the little native rat their two-legged enemies were the only quarry 
they could capture on land. Sitting in the dark round their stone lamps, 
they had dropped quantities of fine needles made of human bones 
among the waste on the floor. These, and a few other primitive imple- 
ments of human bone, stone, and volcanic glass, and some simple 
amulets of bone and shells were all we found. Nothing else. 

There was something about this that did not make sense. Could 
these primitive cannibals have been the masters who wrought the clas- 
sical giant sculptures of aristocratic ruler-types which dominated the 
countryside on this same island? How could a people of hunted cave 
dwellers have bred such unique engineers and ingenious artists as the 
creators of those gigantic monuments? And how could monolithic 
work have been organized among people who did not even live together 
in a village, but hid here and there down narrow, underground shafts 
scattered about the island ? 

I crept into the funnel leading to a cave where Bill was sitting in the 
light of a kerosene lamp digging carefully with a mason's trowel. He 
had a bag beside him full of burned human bones. 

"The same primitive culture," he said, scraping two molars out of the 
earth at his feet. "Look, these dirty devils have been sitting here 
eating each other and spitting the teeth on the floor." 

It was not only on ceremonial occasions that human flesh had been 
devoured on this island. The natives have legends to this very day of 
ancestors who would rather eat their own race than fish or fowl. They 
have also persistent legends of a still earlier time of greatness when 
another people, the long-ears, had lived at peace with their ancestors, 
the short-ears. The long-ears had demanded too much labor of the 
short-ears, and in the end there had been a war in which nearly all the 


In Volcanic Gas Tunnels 

long-ears were burned in a ditch. From that day no more statues had 
been made, and many of those which were standing had been pulled 
down with ropes. Civil war, family feuds, and cannibalism marked the 
years which followed, right up to the time when Father Eugenio landed 
two generations ago and collected the inhabitants peacefully round him 
in the village of Hangaroa. 

Father Sebastian was convinced that two different races with sepa- 
rate cultures had come to Easter Island, and the natives were unshakable 
in their affirmation that this was the case. He had also pointed out that 
the population differed in many respects from ordinary Pacific natives. 
Among other things, they contained unmistakable remnants of a white 
race. 1 It was not only Roggeveen and the first discoverers who had 
noticed this. Father Sebastian pointed out that according to traditions 
of the natives themselves, many of their ancestors in olden times had 
white skin, red hair, and blue eyes. And when Father Eugenio settled 
among them as the first European, and assembled all the people at 
Hangaroa, he was surprised to find many completely white people 
among the brown ones. As recently as the visit of the Routledge expe- 
dition forty years ago, the natives still divided their ancestors into two 
categories according to the color of their skins, and they told Mrs. 
Routledge that even the last king had been a quite white man. The 
white branch was looked up to with admiration and respect, and just 
as in the other South Sea Islands some leading personalities had to 
undergo special bleaching processes to be as much like their deified 
ancestors as possible. 

One day Father Sebastian came to take us with him to Ana o Keke, 
the holy bleaching place of the neru virgins. Neru was the name given 
to specially chosen young maidens who in old days were confined in a 
deep cave to become as pale and white as possible for special religious 
festivals when they were to be shown to the public. For a long, long 
time they might see neither the light of day nor other people, and tHeir 
food was carried to the cave and pushed through the opening by women 

*P. Sebastian Englcrt, La 7 terra dc Hotu Mafu'a (Chile, 1948), pp. 203-05. 


appointed for the purpose. The natives could still remember that when 
the smallpox epidemic raged all over the island after the slaves returned 
from the mainland, it did not reach the neru maidens, but they died of 
starvation in their cave because there was no longer anyone to bring 
them food. 

The entrance to the virgins' cave Ana o Keke lay at the most easterly 
point of the island, the Poike Peninsula, and the name means "Cave of 
the Sun's Inclination/' To get there we passed the island's most easterly 
volcano, Katiki, behind which lay the three hummocks where the 
Spaniards had once set up their first crosses. There was a cave dwelling 
there too, and beside it a diabolical giant's head carved in the rock wall 
itself, where the rainwater was carried into an open mouth so large 
that I climbed in and concealed myself behind the underlip with the 
greatest of ease. 

Father Sebastian led us farther on, right out to the edge of the 
frightful precipice which falls into the sea all round this lofty peninsula. 
Here he began to walk along the very edge of the cliff in such an un- 
concerned manner that we four who were with him called and begged 
him to keep farther in. An unusually violent east wind thundered at 
the cliffs and tore at our clothes, making us feel unsteady and insecure. 
But our white-clad friend in his long, fluttering robe and big black 
boots kept on rapidly along the outermost edge; he was searching for 
the place and did not know exactly where it was. Suddenly his face 
lighted up and he threw up his arms: ah, here it was! He broke off a 
piece of the loose yellowish-brown rock to show us that it was quite 
worn away by weathering, so we must step carefully. Then he went 
straight to the very edge, a thundering gust of wind took hold of his 
habit, we gave a yell, and Father Sebastian had gone. 

Carl sat down and clutched at his hat in sheer bewilderment. Cau- 
tiously I crawled out and looked over the edge. Far below I saw the 
foot of the cliff, on which white surf was breaking, with the sea be- 
hind it stretching away white-crested into infinity. The air was full 
of the roar of wind and sea. To my relief, on a narrow shelf to my 
left I saw Father Sebastian's white robe; the wind was whipping it as 
he pressed himself close to the face of the cliff and moved downward 

In Volcanic Gas Tunnels 

sideways. It was blowing furiously that day: the wind hammered at us 
violently in gusts, now from one way, now from another, due to the 
steep barrier that flung it back. I suddenly was overcome with an 
unbounded admiration for this old priest who climbed with such 
perfect confidence, and who identified reality with his own faith to 
such a degree that he had no fear of physical dangers. I almost believe 
he could have walked on the water. 

Now he turned toward me and smiled, pointed lower down beneath 
his feet, and raised his fingers to his mouth as a sign that I must bring 
our parcels of food, for we were going to have lunch down there. I felt 
so unsteady in the uneven gusts of wind that I crawled back from the 
cliffside and pulled off my fluttering shirt before I fetched the parcels 
of food and plucked up courage to follow Father Sebastian on the ledge. 

When I began to clamber down he had gone on; I could not see a 
trace of his robe, but I did see six hundred feet straight down into the 
breakers below. Mountaineering is not my strongest point, and I did 
not feel very cheerful as I carefully lowered myself onto the ledge, 
pressed my stomach against the face of the cliff, and with my heart in 
my mouth set off in Father Sebastian's wake, feeling my way forward 
step by step to see if the rock would hold. The worst part of it was the 
wind. I arrived at a slight corner in the cliff where the only support 
was something which looked like a hard lump of earth, separated from 
the actual cliff by a crack. If it had borne Father Sebastian, it would 
bear me. I kicked it cautiously, but dared not kick too hard. 

I put my head around the projection and found Father Sebastian 
again. He was lying with only his head and shoulders projecting from 
the cave entrance in the face of the cliff. The entrance was about half 
the height of an opening to a dog kennel. He was laughing. I shall 
always remember him thus, like an Easter Island Diogenes in his tub, 
with rimless spectacles on his nose, wide white sleeves, and flowing 
beard. When he saw me, he raised his arms in a sweeping gesture and 
cried: "Welcome to my cave!" 

I could hardly hear what he said for the noise. Then he lowered his 
beard toward the narrow shelf and pushed himself back in through the 
crevice so that there would be room for me too, for under the opening 


there was a sheer drop. I got across to the shelf in front of the cave and 
squeezed myself in after him. Noise, wind, and light disappeared. Inside 
it was very narrow, but soon the roof became higher and there was 
inviolable peace and security here within the belly of the cliff. A scrap 
of light found its way in so that we could soon make each other out, 
and I could see with my pocket flashlight that the curved walls were 
covered with curious signs and figures. 

This was the virgins' cave. Here the poor little girls had sat for 
weeks, perhaps for months, waiting till their skins became white 
enough for them to be shown to the people. The cave was less than 
five feet high, and there was not room for many more than a dozen 
children if they sat in rows along the walls. 

After a while the opening was darkened by someone forcing his 
way in. It was our native friend. Father Sebastian sent him out again 
to fetch Carl and the photographer; he would not have them drawing 
back when he, a man of sixty-eight, had led the way. 

We were soon all sitting together enjoying our lunch. Father Sebas- 
tian pointed to a small hole in the back wall and said that if we crawled 
in there we could get four hundred yards farther into the rock. But it 
was the worst trip he had ever made, and he would never do it again. 
Halfway in, the passage for a long stretch was so narrow that it was 
just possible for a man to force his way through, and inside teeth and 
remnants of human bones were lying about as in a burial cave. It was 
a mystery to him how anyone could have carried a dead person in there, 
for it was impossible to push the corpse in front, and if a man dragged 
it behind him, it would bar the way back for himself. 

I put on my shirt and decided to see the rest of th> we. Father 
Sebastian roared with laughter at the thought of whaMr UMS going to 
encounter; I would turn back quickly when I saw what it was like in 
there! Only the native was willing to come with me when I crept in 
through the hole. 

The cave forked, but the branches met again immediately in a nar- 
row passage through which we had to go. Then the roof rose and we 
found ourselves in a long tunnel, so high and spacious that we could 
run to save time. The flashlight was miserable and shone with only 

In Volcanic Gas Tunnels 

half its strength. Through an accident in storage the batteries had been 
damaged, and for safety's sake I carried a stump of candle and a box 
of matches in my trousers pocket. To save the batteries I continually 
turned the light off, and we ran, walked, and crawled in the darkness 
as far as we had seen ahead of us between the flashes. We could not 
help knocking our heads against the roof two or three times, so that 
little drop-shaped particles tinkled down like glass through our hair 
and down our necks. A long way in we came to a place where there 
was mud and water on the floor. Here the roof fell lower and lower. 
We had no choice but to stoop down and crawl on our hands and knees 
in water and ooze, but it became still lower, and at last we had to lie 
flat on our stomachs and wriggle forward Under the rock as ice-cold 
mud soaked through our shirts and trousers. 
"Nice road," I called back. 

My companion wallowing in the mud behind me laughed politely. 
It was beginning to be unpleasant. Now I understood what Father 
Sebastian meant, but if he had managed it, there was little reason for 
us to give up halfway. 

Just after this I almost regretted having started. Although I was 
lying with my body pressed into water and soft mud, the roof came 
down so low that again and again I tried without finding a passage. 
The flashlight was watertight, but it was hopeless to keep the glass free 
of mud when I myself was lying flat, pressed down in it. Nevertheless, 
the faint light showed clearly that the passage was not only low and 
narrow, but that there was no other choice. Father Sebastian had pushed 
himself through here. I forced my chest in slowly, and felt that it was 
just possible nly it did not grow worse. With the mud pushed aside 
and the haia iv>ck pressing me both from below and from above, I 
squeezed myself in through the crack inch by inch. It was so grotesque 
that I could not help groaning "nice road" to the poor wretch who was 
following me, but now his sense of humor was no longer functioning. 
"Bad road, Senor," he grunted. 

We had to push ourselves forward for five yards through this vise 
which held our ribs in its hold. Then we were through the needle's 
eye and reached the part of the cave where the remains of skeletons 

lay. Here it was dry and the roof gradually became higher, so that 
again we could alternately crawl on all fours and amble through the 
passages. The poor ncru maidens, if they had wanted to get a little 
exercise during their long stay in the cave, had had no romantic moon- 
light walk. I was stiff and cold from the wet earth, and when I turned 
the light behind me to see if my native friend was following, I found 
that I was pursued by a figure caked in mud, hardly distinguishable 
from the dark of the cave but for the gleam of his eyes and teeth. 

At last the cave ended in a smooth, steep earth slope which led up 
to a hole in the roof. After much helpless slithering I managed to scratch 
my way up and came into a little, bell-shaped dome, which had all the 
appearance of being made by man. But it was only an old gas bubble. 
Father Sebastian had left a candle stump there. I still had mine in my 
hip pocket, and my back and hinder parts were comparatively dry. I 
tried Father Sebastian's candle; it would not burn. There was something 
wrong with the matches too. Now I felt sweat trickling down my face; 
the air was bad here. I hastily slipped down the earth slope to my mud- 
caked companion who stood waiting for me, and then we retraced our 
steps as quickly as the wretched light and the height of the roof allowed. 

We looked like two creatures from Hades as we crouched and 
crawled along, and we felt like it too, for when we came to the horrible 
needle's eye, we flung ourselves down in the water and mud with 
jesting words and pressed ourselves into the crack. The native followed 
with his head right at my heels, and we forced our way forward inch 
by inch, feeling our chests crushed in the inexorable mountain jaws 
which would not open one hairsbreadth extra for two human bodies. 
It had taken a long time to get in, but it seemed to be taking longer to 
get out again. We still tried to joke a little, knowing we would soon 
be out now; but I felt unpleasantly wet and dirty, sweat was drenching 
my face, and I was rather tired. The air was very bad. After a while we 
kept silent and only struggled to force our bodies on with outstretched 
arms, I trying not to let the glass of the light get down into the mud. 

Had there been more space under the roof for a moment ? If so, now 
there was less again. It was queer that this narrow passage still con- 
tinued, that we did not soon emerge into the outer tunnel. My weary 


In Volcanic Gas Tunnels 

brain had been vaguely considering this for some time as I shoved and 
shoved to get my body through the vise. Then I saw, in the faint glow 
of the electric bulb, that just in front of my nose there was a sudden 
little upward bend, and it looked as if I could not get my body up 
through it. Perhaps this bend had been much easier to pass in the oppo- 
site direction, so that I had not realized how difficult it would be to 
get through on the return journey. Queer that I did not remember 
anything about it. With all my might I forced myself a little farther 
forward and tried to look up through the hole in a cramped position, 
with millions of tons pressing on my back and chest. Then to my terror 
I saw that there was something wrong: it was impossible to get past 
this bend. 

"We can't get any farther," I said to the man who was lying at my 
heels. The sweat poured from my face. 
"Go on, Senor. There isn't any other way out," he groaned in reply. 

I forced myself another fraction of an inch farther, with my head 
twisted on one side to find room in the narrow gap between the rock 
surfaces, and with my chest in a devilish squeeze. By turning the light 
upward I saw that the hole above was positively much smaller than 
my head. It was impossible to get through. 

In the same second I switched oflf the light : now every spark must 
be saved, for we had trouble ahead. One could think in the dark. I 
suddenly felt that the whole mighty massif of the Poike Peninsula was 
lying on my body and pressing hard. It was terribly heavy heavy 
and it was worse if I tried to push against it. The only thing to do was 
to relax altogether and make oneself as thin as possible. But even then 
the rock went on pressing, from above and from below. 

"Go back," I said to the man who lay right at my heels. "This won't 

He flatly refused, and begged me to push on; there was no other 
way out of this hell. 

This could not be the case. I switched the light on again and 
examined the ground before my hands and chest, shoving myself a 
little farther back as I did so. On this little slope there seemed to be a 
mixture of earth and half-dry mud; the impression of my shirt and 


buttons was plainly visible just in front of my chest, and my fingerprints 
too as far forward as I then had my hands, but immediately ahead 
was muddy earth and rubble, untouched by man or beast. I switched 
the light off again. The air was heavy. My chest was in that beastly 
squeeze. My face and body were dripping with perspiration. Had we 
caused the old cave passage to collapse by talking or pressing our way 
through on the way in ? If a fall from the roof had blocked the whole 
passage ahead of us, how could we dig ourselves out into the daylight 
when there was no room to push earth and stones past us into the 
cave behind? How long could we hold out in that bad air before the 
others realized what had happened and were able to dig their way to 
us? Or could we have made a mistake in crawling and got into another 
passage which was a blind alley ? How could we have done that, when 
the entire virgins' cave was one single narrow tunnel, hardly wider 
than a man's body in the part where we were ? 

The native blocked me completely from behind and tried to force 
me on. My whole body was caked with mud, and the cliff weighed me 
down with all its millions of tons harder and harder the more I 
thought about it. 
"Go back!" I shouted. 

He was beginning to press upon my heels in desperation; he had 
not seen the little hole, and I could not let him past so that he could 
see for himself. 
"Go back! Go back!" 

The native was now working himself into a mad panic. I raged at 
him, "Go! go!" and kicked out with the sole of my foot. That had some 
effect. He shoved himself back inch by inch, and I followed. We went 
slowly, one little backward movement at a time; we must not get stuck 
fast or caught by the head between the rocks. I was most afraid of 
placing the head wrong, for it would not yield to pressure as the 
chest did. 

Suddenly there was more space above us. I understood nothing: I 
was quite muddleheaded from the bad air. Could we have got right 
back to the skeleton place? I used my flashlight again and saw two 
openings in front of me: the right-hand one went slightly uphill. This 


In Volcanic Gas Tunnels 

was where we had gone wrong; we had crawled to the left instead of 
up to the right. I called to the native, but he only went on, as if in a 
stupor, shoving himself backwards. 

"Here it is!" I cried, and crawled forward again into the left-hand 
entrance, the native following me automatically. Our voices sounded 
very queer in the cave. The passage grew narrower and narrower 
again. This was ghastly. At last I used my light and saw ahead of me 
the same impossible little hole as before. Then I realized that my brain 
was no longer functioning clearly: I had crawled into the wrong hole 
for the second time, although I knew perfectly well that it was the 
other hole I should have taken. 

"Go back!" I groaned. 

And now all our actions seemed purely mechanical. We forced our- 
selves out again backwards and I thought of only one word: right, 
right, right. When we saw the two passages again I crept mechanically 
into the right-hand opening, and soon we could raise ourselves up, we 
felt gusts of cold, fresh air in the tunnel, we were able to crouch and 
crawl, and finally we came out of the last hole and into the snug cave 
with the inscriptions on the walls where our friends were sitting waiting 
for us. It was heavenly to push oneself out of the cliffside, out into the 
roaring wind. Heavenly to meet again the blinding sunshine and the 
limitless space stretching from the precipice sheer below us into the 
unbounded blue immensity of sea and sky. 

"Did you give up?" Father Sebastian asked eagerly, laughing heartily 
at our appearance. 

"No," I said. "But it's understandable that skeletons may be left in 
a cave like that." 

"Did you say you have been in the bleaching cave?" Yvonne asked 
when we came back to the camp. That was certainly not obvious from 
our appearance. 

I went straight down to the shore and flung myself into the salt 
surf with all my clothes on. 




get a little foretaste of it by climbing about on the dead 
volcanic cones of Easter Island. Not only does his own hectic world 
seem immeasurably distant, but the landscape can easily give the illu- 
sion of being on the moon: a friendly little moon hung between sky 
and sea, where grass and ferns cover treeless craters which lie gaping 
sleepily toward the sky. 

There arc a number of these peaceful volcanoes here and there 
all over the island. They arc green outside and green within. The 
time of eruptions is so long past that at the bottom of some of the 
largest craters sky-blue lakes with waving green reeds mirror clouds 
flying before the trade wind. 

One of these water-filled volcanoes is called Rano Raraku, and it 
is here that the men in the moon seem to have been most busily at work. 
You do not sec them; they have fled in haste from what they were 
doing. But you have a feeling that they have only hidden themselves in 

concealed holes in the ground, while you yourself walk about in the 
grass surveying their interrupted tasks. 

Rano Raraku remains one of the greatest and most curious monu- 
ments of mankind, a monument to the great lost unknown behind us, 
a warning of the transience of man and civilization. The whole moun- 
tain massif has been reshaped, the volcano has been greedily cut up as 
if it were pastry, although sparks fly when a steel ax is driven against 
the rock to test its strength. Hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of 
rock have been cut out and tens of thousands of tons of stone carried 
away. And in the midst of the mountain's gaping wound lie more than 
a hundred and fifty gigantic stone men, in all stages from the just 
begun to the just completed. At the foot of the mountain stand finished 
stone men side by side like a supernatural army. 

You feel miserably small in approaching the vanished sculptors' 
workshop, whether on horseback or driving in a jeep along the ancient 
roads. Dismounting from your horse in the shadow of a great block 
of stone, you see that the block has features on its underside: it is the 
head of a fallen giant. All twenty-three of our expedition could creep 
under it and find shelter in a rainstorm. On going up to the foremost 
figures, which are buried in the earth up to their chests, you are shocked 
to find that you cannot even reach up to the colossi's chins. And if you 
try to climb onto those which lie flat on their backs, you feel a regular 
Lilliputian because often you have the greatest difficulty even in getting 
up onto their stomachs. And once up on a prostrate Goliath you can 
walk about freely on his chest and stomach, or stretch yourself out on 
his nose, which often is as long as an ordinary bed. Thirty feet is no 
uncommon height for these figures. The largest, which lay unfinished 
and aslant on the side of the volcano, was sixty-nine feet long, so that, 
counting a story as ten feet, this stone man was as tall as a seven-story 

In Rano Raraku you feel the mystery of Easter Island at close quar- 
ters. The very air is laden with it. Bent on you is the silent gaze of a 
hundred and fifty eyeless faces. Nothing moves except the drifting 
clouds above you. It was so when the sculptors went, and so it will 
always be. The oldest figures, those which were completed, stand there 


The Mystery of the Easter Island Giants 

proud, arrogant, and tight-lipped, as though defiantly conscious that no 
chisel, no power will ever open their mouths and make them speak. 

But even though the giants' mouths are sealed seven times over, 
anyone going about in the chaos of uncompleted figures up the moun- 
tain slope can learn a good deal. Wherever we climbed and wherever 
we halted, we were surrounded, as in a hall of mirrors, by enormous 
faces astonishingly alike. All had the same stoical expression and the 
most peculiar long ears. 

We had them above us, beneath us, and on both sides. We clambered 
over noses and chins and trod on mouths and gigantic brows, while huge 
bodies lay leaning over us on the ledges higher up. As our eyes gradu- 
ally became trained to distinguish art from nature, we perceived that 
the whole mountain was one single swarm of bodies and heads, right 
from the foot up to the very top of the precipice on the uppermost edge 
of the volcano. Even up here, five hundred feet above the plain, half- 
finished giants lay side by side staring up into the firmament, in which 
only the hawks were sailing. But the swarm of stone men did not stop 
even up here on the topmost ridge, they went on side by side and above 
one another in unbroken procession down the inside of the volcano, 
right down to the lush green reed bed on the edge of the crater lake, 
like a people of blind robots searching for the water of life. 

We were all equally overwhelmed and impressed by the gigantic 
enterprise which had once been interrupted in Rano Raraku. Only little 
Anette took it all quite calmly: 

"Look at the dolls," she said, enthralled, when I had lifted her down 
from the pommel at the foot of the volcano. 

But when we went closer, the dimensions became too great for her 
imagination too. She played hide and seek round their necks without 
suspecting that heads rose into the air on top of them. When her mother 
helped her up a ledge she could not climb, she did not realize that she 
was being lifted from the upper lip of a recumbent giant onto the tip 
of his nose. 

When we began to dig, the impression was no less astonishing. The 
famous Easter Island heads were large enough already, standing on the 
slope at the foot of the volcano. But when we dug our way down along 

the throat, the chest appeared, and under the chest the stomach and 
arms continued and the whole of the huge body right down to the 
hips, where long thin fingers with enormous curved nails met under a 
protruding belly. Now and then we found both human bones and 
remains of fires in the strata of earth down the front of the statue. The 
heads looked quite different from the pictures in encyclopedias, now 
that they were standing there with bodies and arms. But this uncovering 
solved none of the problems of Easter Island; it was merely a fascinating 
sight which the Routledge expedition had experienced before us. 

We had the greatest difficulty in throwing a line over the highest 
heads, and only the best climbers attempted to struggle up the rope, for 
when these statues were completely excavated some of them stood as 
much as forty feet high. The last bit, from the eyebrows upward, was 
the worst, for here the rope was pressed tight against the giant's fore- 
head and did not afford a decent grip. 

It was difficult enough for a man on a rope without encumbrances 
to ascend the skull of one of these standing giants; how it was possible 
to carry up a large "hat" which was to be placed right on the top of the 
head, we could not understand. Especially considering that the hat too 
was of stone, and could have a volume of two hundred cubic feet, and 
could weigh as much as two elephants! 

How can one lift the weight of two elephants to the level of the 
roof of a four-story house when there are no cranes and not even a high 
point in the vicinity? The few men who could find room for them- 
selves up on the figure's skull could not possibly have dragged an 
enormous stone cylinder up to the small flat space which was their only 
foothold. And although a crowd of men could stand on the ground 
at the foot of the statue, they were mere midgets who could not stretch 
their arms more than a fraction of the way up the lower part of the 
giant. How then could they have pushed the weight of two elephants 
high in the air, right up past the chest, and on past the towering head, 
up to the very top of the skull? Metal was unknown, and the island 
was practically treeless. 

Even the engineers shook their heads resignedly. We felt like a 
crowd of schoolboys standing helpless before a practical conundrum. 

The Mystery of the Easter Island Giants 

The invisible moon dwellers down in their holes seemed to be glorying 
over us, saying: "Guess how this engineering work was done! Guess 
how we moved these gigantic figures down the steep walls of the vol- 
cano and carried them over the hills to any place in the island we liked!" 

There was little use in guessing. We must first have a really good 
look round to see if the old-time geniuses had been careless enough to 
leave behind something which could give us even the smallest hint. 

To tackle the problem at its root, we first studied the numerous 
uncompleted figures which lay on the ledges in the quarry itself. It 
was clear that all work had been broken off suddenly: thousands of 
primitive unpolished stone picks still lay in the open-air workshop; 
and as different groups of sculptors had worked simultaneously on many 
different statues, all stages of carving were represented. The ancient 
stonecutters had first attacked the bare rock itself and made the face 
and front part of the statue. Then they had cut alleyways along the 
sides and made giant ears and arms, always with extremely long and 
slender fingers curved over the belly. Next they had cut their way 
underneath the whole figure from both sides, so that the back took 
the shape of a boat with a narrow keel, attached to the rock. 

When the facade of the figure was completed in every minute 
detail, it was rubbed with a sort of pumice and thoroughly polished: 
the only thing they took care not to do was to mark in the eye itself 
under the overhanging brows. For the present the giant was to be blind. 
Then the keel was hacked away under the back, while the colossus 
was wedged up with stones to prevent it from slipping away and sliding 
down into the abyss. It was a matter of utter indifference to the sculp- 
tors whether they carved the figure out of a perpendicular wall or a 
horizontal slab, head upward or downward, for half-finished giants lay 
bent in every direction. The only consistent thing about them was that 
the back was the last part to remain attached to the rock. 

When the back also had been cut loose, transportation down the 
cliff to the foot of the volcano began. In some cases colossi weighing 
many tons had been swung down a perpendicular wall and maneuvered 
over lower ledges where there were statues on which work was still 
proceeding. Many were broken in transport, but the overwhelming 

majority had come down complete that is to say, complete without 
legs, for every single statue ended in a flat cutoff foundation just where 
the abdomen ends and the legs begin. They were sort of lengthened 
busts with complete torsos. 

At the foot of the cliff lay a thick layer of gravel and decomposed 
rock, often piled up into ridges and regular hillocks. This was the 
result of thousands of tons of stone splinters which had been carried 
away from the quarry by the sculptors. Here the giant men had been 
temporarily raised up into a standing position in holes which had been 
dug in the rubble. Not till now, with the statues standing thus, did the 
sculptors set to work on the unfinished back. As the neck and hinder 
parts took shape, a belt, decorated with rings and symbols, was carved 
on the waist. This little belt was the only piece of clothing the naked 
statues wore, and with only one exception all the colossi were male 

But the mysterious march of the stone colossi did not end here 
among the rubble. When the back also was finished, they had to be 
moved to their wall-less temples. Most of them had already gone: only 
comparatively few were still on the waiting list for transportation from 
their holes at the foot of the volcano. All the fully completed giants had 
moved on, mile by mile right over the island; some had finished their 
journey up to ten miles from the quarry where they had first been 
created, and the very smallest weighed from two to ten tons apiece. 

Father Sebastian acted as an outdoor museum director in this de- 
serted moon landscape. He had climbed about everywhere and painted 
a number on all the statues he could find, and there were over six 
hundred in all. All were of the same grayish-yellow, black-grained 
stone; all had been hewn in the same gigantic workshop on the steep 
face of Rano Raraku. It was only there that this special coloring of 
the rock was found, and knowing this, one could recognize a statue 
simply by its color even if it was lying prostrate among other huge 
boulders a long way off. 

The strangest thing was that the colossi had been moved about not 
as shapeless lumps which could stand a knock or two, but as perfectly 
smooth figures, rubbed and polished fore and aft, from the lobes of 


The Mystery of the Easter Island Giants 

their ears to the roots of their nails. Only the eye sockets were still 
missing. How had it been possible to move the completely finished 
article across country without rubbing it to pieces? Nobody knew. 

At their destination the blind stone men were not erected just by 
dropping them down into a hole. On the contrary, they were lifted up 
above the ground and placed on the top of an ahu, or temple platform, 
where they remained standing with their base a couple of yards above 
the ground. Now at last holes were chiseled for the eyes; now at last 
the giants might see where they were. And then came the finishing 
touch. They were to have "hats" put on the tops of their heads 
hats which weighed from two to ten tons. 

Actually, it is not quite correct to talk about hats, even though every- 
one does so nowadays. The old native name for this gigantic head 
decoration is pufyo, which means "topknot," the usual coiffure worn 
by male natives on Easter Island at the time of its discovery. Why did 
the old masters lift this pttJ{ao up on top of the giant in the form of an 
extra block? Why could they not simply cut it out of the same stone 
with the rest of the figure? Because the important detail was the color 
of the topknot. They went to the opposite end of the island, seven miles 
from the stone quarry in Rano Raraku, and here they had hewn their 
way down into a little overgrown crater where the rock was a very 
special red. It was this red stone they wanted for the statues' hair. So 
they had dragged yellowish-gray statues from one side of the island 
and red topknots from the other, and superimposed one on the other at 
the upper platform of more than fifty temple terraces all round the 
coast. Most of these platforms had a couple of statues side by side, a 
great many had four, five, or six, and one had no fewer than fifteen 
red-haired giants standing side by side, with their bases twelve feet 
above the ground. 

Not one of these red-haired giants stands in his old place on top 
of the temple platforms today. Even Captain Cook, and probably Rog- 
geveen also, arrived too late to see them all standing in their old places. 
But the first explorers did record that many of the statues were still 
standing at their posts with red pu^aos on their heads. In the middle of 
the last century the last giant crashed down from his temple, and the 

red topknot rolled like a blood-stained steam roller over the pavement 
of the temple square. Today only the blind hairless statues in the 
rubble-filled holes at the foot of the volcano still stand with heads raised 
defiantly. They stand so deep in the earth that no native enemy suc- 
ceeded in pulling them down, and a single attempt to cut off one of 
the heads with an ax was totally unsuccessful because the ancient exe- 
cutioner had not managed to cut his way more than a hand's breadth 
into the giant's neck. 

The last statue to fall was dragged down from its ahu about 1840 
on the occasion of a cannibal feast in a cave nearby. It had a topknot 
two hundred cubic feet in size on the top of its thirty-two-foot-tall body, 
which in turn stood on a wall almost the height of a man. It weighed 
fifty tons and had been transported two and a half miles from the 
quarry in Rano Raraku. 

Let us imagine ourselves taking a ten-ton boxcar and turning it 
upside down, for the wheel was unknown in Polynesia. Next we cap- 
size another boxcar alongside the first one, and tie the two firmly 
together. Then we drive twelve full-grown horses into the cars, and 
after them five large elephants. Now we have got our fifty tons and 
can begin to pull. We have not merely to move this weight, but drag 
it for two and a half miles over stony ground without the slightest 
injury being done to it. Is this impossible without machinery? If so, the 
oldest inhabitants of Easter Island mastered the impossible. 

One thing is certain: this was not the work of a canoeload of Poly- 
nesian wood carvers who set to work on the bare rock faces when 
they landed merely because they could find no trees to whittle. The 
red-haired giants with the classical features were made by seafarers 
who came from a land with generations of experience in maneuvering 

Now that we have got our fifty-ton load to the right place, the three- 
story stone man must be hoisted onto a wall and made to stand upright. 
And then the topknot must be put on : in this case it alone weighs ten 
tons, and has been carried seven miles as the crow flies from the topknot 
quarry. Seven miles is a long way in country like this, and thirty-two 
feet in excess of the stone platform is a good height anywhere when the 


When the first Europeans visited Easter Island several of the statues still 

had their red-stone topknots balanced on top of their heads. Note the native 

hat thief. (Old illustration from the visit of La PeVouse.) 

object to be superimposed weighs ten tons, or as much as twenty full- 
grown horses. But it was done. And the whole thing was pulled down 
again in 1840 by cannibals, who undermined the foundation stones in 
the wall and celebrated their deed by eating thirty of their neighbors 
in a cave. 

I stood on the top of the crater of Rano Raraku and had a mag* 
nificent view all round of the grass-clad island. Behind me there was a 
fairly steep slope down into the overgrown interior of the volcano, 
where the sky-blue lake lay in a broad frame of the greenest green 
reeds I ever saw. Perhaps they seemed a brighter green in contrast with 
the grass all over the island, which now, in the dry season, was begin- 
ning to turn yellow. In front of me there was a steep drop down the 
terraced wall of the quarry to the flat ground at the foot of the volcano, 
where the members of the expedition were working like ants, exca- 
vating the brown earth around the gigantic figures. Their horses stood 
tethered here and there, looking exceedingly small alongside the burly 
giants. From here I had a good survey of what had happened in the 
past. This was the focal point of Easter Island's foremost riddle; this 
was the statues' maternity home. I myself was standing on a sturdy 
embryo, watching the swarms of others all down the descents, both 
before and behind me. And at the foot of the slopes, both outside and 
inside the crater, the newborn stood erect, blind and hairless, waiting 
in vain to be hauled away on their long transport. 

From up here I could see the course the transport had taken. Two 
of the figures which were completed inside the crater had been on their 
way when all work suddenly ceased. One had just come up onto the 
edge of the crater on its way out, the other had already been on its way 
down through a gully on the outside, and they both lay, not on their 
backs, but on their stomachs. Along the old stoneless grass tracks over 
the plain, as far as the eye could see, others lay abandoned, singly and 
in irregular groups of two and three. They too were blind and hairless, 
indicating that they had never been set up where they lay, but had been 
suddenly left in the midst of being transported from Rano Raraku to 
the platforms that awaited them. 

And far away to the west, beyond the horizon, was the little volcano 


The Mystery of the Easter Island Giants 

Puna Pau with the topknot quarry. I could not see it from where I 
stood, but I had been down into its blood-red interior and seen half 
a dozen topknots lying like giant stone cylinders in the precipitous 
little crater. A number of the largest had been conveyed up over the 
steep slope. These now lay in a dump outside, waiting to be taken 
further. Others had evidently been abandoned while under way to 
their future owners, for here and there you saw a solitary topknot on 
the plain. I measured the largest topknot which had been carried up 
out of the red crater. It was six hundred fifty cubic feet in size and 
weighed roughly thirty tons, or as much as sixty full-grown horses. 

My own comprehension was insufficient to grasp the ancient Easter 
Island engineering scheme, and I turned resignedly to the native shep- 
herd who stood by me in silence gazing at the abandoned giants which 
lay about on the plain. 

"Leonardo," I said, "you are a practical man. Can you tell me how 
these stone giants could have been carried about in old times ?" 

"They went of themselves," Leonardo replied. 
But for his grave, almost reverent air I should have thought he was 
joking, for Leonardo was no less civilized, and more intelligent, than 
the average man in the world outside. 

"But, Leonardo," I said, "how could they go when they had only 
heads and bodies and no legs?" 

"They wriggled along like this," said Leonardo, and gave a demon- 
stration by working himself along the rock with feet together and 
stiff knees. "How do you think it happened?" he asked indulgently. 

I was silenced at once, and as I was certainly not the first white man 
who had shown Leonardo that he had no comprehension whatever of 
the mystery, it was really quite reasonable that he should accept the 
practical explanation of his own father and grandfather. The statues 
had walked of their own accord. Why set up unnecessary problems 
when the answer was so simple? 

When I got home to the camp, I went over to the kitchen tent to 
old Mariana, who was sitting peeling potatoes. 

"Have you heard how the great moai were carried about in the old 
times?" I asked. 


"Si, Senor," she said with conviction. "They went of themselves." 
And Mariana began to tell a long story about an old witch who lived 
at Rano Raraku at the time when the sculptors made the great figures. 
It was her magic which breathed life into the stone giants and made 
them go where they should. But one day the sculptors had eaten a big 
lobster, and when the witch found the empty shell, and realized none 
of the contents had been given to her, she was so angry that she made 
all the walking statues fall flat on their noses, and they have never 
moved since. 

Forty years ago the natives told Mrs. Routledge just the same story 
about the witch and the lobster, and I found to my astonishment that 
all the natives I talked to still accepted this easy solution to the mystery. 
And unless someone could give them a more plausible explanation, they 
would stick firmly to the witch and lobster version till Doomsday. 

In general the natives were certainly not naive. With or without 
lawful grounds, they were always thinking of cunning excuses for 
leaving the village and coming over to the camp to sell wood carvings. 
Nearly all of them could carve; several of them were real masters, but 
the best of all was the mayor. Everyone wanted his figures, for although 
they all invariably offered the same subjects, the graceful lines and 
perfect polish of his showed that no one could shape a piece of wood 
better than he. He had far more orders in the camp than he could 

American cigarettes, Norwegian fishhooks, and brightly colored 
English yardgoods ranked highest on the list of barter goods. As on so 
many of the other islands, the people of Easter Island were absolutely 
crazy about cigarettes. Those who had come on board the ship and 
obtained a few packets by barter the first night had not smoked them 
all themselves. They had galloped off to the village and gone from house 
to house, there waking up relatives and friends so that everyone could 
taste a cigarette, for the supply which had come with the last warship 
had been consumed months ago. 

Among the elegant wood carvings there appeared now and then a 
freshly made but very inferior stone figure, either a naive copy of the 
great statues or a shapeless head with only eyes and nose casually indi- 

The Mystery of the Easter Island Giants 

cated. At first the owners tried to make us believe that these were old 
figures found on the ground or in temple walls. But when we laughed 
at them, most of them gave up the pretense, and only a few tried to be 
still smarter. 

One of these people, a woman on horseback, came up to me, saying 
that she had found something curious right in the middle of an old heap 
of stones. At the place, she began carefully to remove the stones, and 
right down among them I saw the light fall on a little bright-colored 
and newly made model of a statue. 

"Don't touch it," I said to her. "It's new. Someone has put it there 
just to play a trick on you!" 

The woman's face grew very long, and neither she nor her husband 
tried to fool us again. 

Then there was a fellow who came panting up after dark to tell 
us that he had found a baby statue buried in the sand while he was 
fishing in the sea by torchlight. If we wanted to have it, we must come 
along right now in the dark, even if we could not see very well, for he 
was on his way home to the village. He was visibly chagrined when 
we maneuvered the jeep to the spot and turned its headlights full on. 
There on the grass lay a badly executed little figure, carefully plastered 
with sand, but otherwise brand-new. While the rest of us stood by 
laughing, the owner had to pack his miserable production away in a 
sack and lug it back to the village. A sailor in the next warship would 
probably get it. 

A third variation came from a native who wanted to show me a 
little open grotto with a water hole and some curious sculptures in the 
roof. The figures in the roof were genuine enough; there were old 
bird-men and great staring eyes, and I was really pleased. While I was 
studying the roof my innocent-looking guide stood and amused himself 
by casually dropping lumps of earth into the water. Suddenly he gave 
a shout. I saw a piece of earth slowly dissolving, and a little doll-like 
stone figure became visible in the water, like a chicken coming out of 
an egg. It was so comical that I laughed more than the sinner deserved, 
and he never tried any more games with me. 

But in their zeal to secure our popular barter goods some of them 


really did find old things in the ground. One day a young married 
couple came and took me to see four curious heads that they had found. 
The place was close to the sheep fence east of the governor's land, and 
when we got there we were met by an old woman and a virago of a 
daughter who I thought were going to scratch our eyes out. They were 
beside themselves with rage and shouted and shrieked at a rate which is 
only possible in Polynesian. If our two guides tried to get in a word, a 
shower of abuse was almost spat in their faces. The photographer and 
I sat down and waited for the steam to blow off. The old woman cooled 
down a little. 

"Senor Kon-Tiki," she said. "These two are thieves and rascals. These 
are my stones; no one may dare to touch them. I am descended from 
Hotu Matua and this has always been my family's land." 

"It isn't now," one of our two guides interrupted. "It's the Navy's 
sheep farm now. The stones are ours because it was we who first found 

The old woman went mad with rage again. 

"First found them? Liars, thieves! The stones belong to my family, 
you thieves!" 

While the two parties were quarreling savagely over the ownership, 
I suddenly realized from their gesticulations what stones they were 
talking about. The old woman and her daughter had now each sat 
down on one of them, I had unconsciously sat on a third, and our two 
guides were standing by the last. They looked like ordinary boulders, 
and not at all like something to quarrel about. 

Then I thought of the wise man Solomon, who, when two mothers 
both laid claim to the same child, took a sword and prepared to cut it 
in half. I could have done the same now with the help of a sledge 
hammer. The young couple would just have agreed and said yes if I 
had raised the hammer to strike. The old woman would have gone out 
of her mind. 

"Let us have a look at your stones," I said to her, "and then we won't 
touch them." 

She did not say a word in reply, but let us roll the great round stones 
over so that they lay bottom upward. Four grotesque faces with round 

The Mystery of the Easter Island Giants 

eyes, large as tea trays, stared blindly up into daylight. They were not 
in the least like the great classical statues, but rather suggested the 
round gods' heads in the Marquesas Islands, terrifying and devilish. The 
two owners of the stones looked desperate, while the two who had 
found them were triumphant, thinking that they were going to do a 
good stroke of business. 

Both parties looked equally tense as we rolled the grotesque heads 
back into place, with their faces buried in the earth. Then we thanked 
them all and went away. The young couple looked after us, open- 
mouthed. Time would show that the old woman did not forget this. 

In the meantime something else happened which puzzled us a good 
deal. Pottery, or ceramics, was as unknown on Easter Island as every- 
where else in Polynesia when our own race came out into the Pacific. 
This was curious, for the art of pottery was at an early date an impor- 
tant cultural feature in South America, and it was still older among the 
peoples of Indonesia and Asia. We had found vast quantities of frag- 
ments of South American pottery in the Galapagos, but that group of 
islands lay within range of regular calls from the old seagoing sailing 
rafts of the mainland, and, furthermore, there was hardly any earth to 
cover the ancient remains. On Easter Island the conditions were dif- 
ferent. It was unlikely that prehistoric voyagers had often found their 
way from the continent out to Easter Island, and the few jars they 
might have brought and broken after their arrival would today lie 
hidden deep under the grass roots. But in any case I had brought a 
fragment of pottery with me, meaning to ask the natives if they had 
seen anything like it, for single fragments can tell the detectives of 
archaeology as much as a written book. 

Our first surprise was that several of the old natives, independently 
of one another, immediately called the fragment tnaengo, a word which 
was not even in Father Sebastian's lexicon. One of them had heard 
from his grandfather that tnaengo was an old thing which people had 
in earlier times. A man had tried to make maengo of earth many years 
ago, but he did not quite succeed. Eroria and Mariana thought they re- 
membered having seen some such fragments in a cave, and they went 
about for two days trying vainly to find them. The governor's wife had 


collected some while digging in the garden. And then a native came 
and told us with an air of mystery that he had a fragment like it at 

The man, whose name was Andres Haoa, took several days to bring 
us his ceramic fragment. To our great surprise it was hand-molded in 
characteristic American Indian fashion, and not turned with the help 
of a potter's wheel in the European manner. I promised to give him a 
wealth of cigarettes if he could show us the place where he had found 
the fragment, so that we ourselves could find more and confirm that 
the place of discovery was genuine. He then led us to a great ahu with 
a row of fallen statues and a gigantic stepped wall which was strikingly 
similar to the classical Inca walls in the Andes. He pointed down into 
the pavement of the upper platform, saying that he had found three 
pieces of that kind just there several years ago. We carefully raised a 
number of the slabs with the help of native labor. In one place inside 
the stone terrace we uncovered two complete skeletons stretched out 
side by side, a quite unusual form of burial to find on Easter Island. 
Just beside them we found a descent to two dark chambers, each covered 
by a gigantic, beautifully cut stone slab, and in both chambers quantities 
of old skulls lay about higgledy-piggledy. But we found no fragments 
of pottery, and Andres did not get his full reward. 

Next day Carl went back to the place with archaeological equipment 
and an excavation crew: Ahu Tepeu was obviously a building which 
in any case deserved closer study. An old native who was with him 
digging suddenly began to pick up fragments of pottery from the 
ground; he was the only person who found any, and the bits were so 
miserably small that it was strange that he had seen them. Then Arne 
and Gonzalo came galloping up from the village. They had heard from 
a native woman that the old man had received fragments of pottery 
from Andres Haoa to help him get his full reward. We compared the 
new small pieces with the big piece I had formerly got from Andres, 
and saw at once that one of them was only a corner broken off the big 

Andres was furious at our having discovered his hoax, and would 
not tell us where he had really found the big piece. He went defiantly 


The Mystery of the Easter Island Giants 

to Father Sebastian, who was astonished when three whole ceramic 
jars were placed on the table before him. 

"Look here," said Andres indignantly. "I'm not going to show these 
to Seiior Kon-Tiki because he says I'm a liar. I'm not a liar." 

Father Sebastian had never seen any such jars on Easter Island be- 
fore, and asked Andres where he had found them. 

"My father found them once in a cave and said they were good to 
hold water," Andres replied. 

This was obviously a fresh lie, for he had no water in the jars, as 
he did not even have them in his house. The many friends who wan- 
dered in and out and knew every corner of their neighbor's little hut 
could testify to that. 

The three mysterious ceramic jars promptly disappeared without 
trace, just as they had come, after Father Sebastian alone had had a 
view of them. And so we had yet another mystery to chew over. The 
jars did not return to Andres' house. Where did he hide them, and 
what actually was going on ? 

In the meantime we had acquired one more problem to tax our 
brains. I had decided to accept the old policeman Kasimiro's invitation 
to make a trip out to the bird-men's legendary island to look for his 
father's secret rongo-rongo cave. There was so much whispered gossip 
among the natives of ancient wooden tablets covered with hieroglyphics, 
which were still hidden in sealed caves, that anyone long enough on 
the island was bound gradually to be infected with curiosity. 

"We have been offered 100,000 pesos for a rongo-rongo tablet, and so 
one is worth at least a million," the natives said. And I knew in my 
heart that they were right. But I knew also that if any of them found 
the entrance to a rongo-rongo cave, they would scarcely dare go in. For 
every rongo-rongo tablet had in their ancestors' time been a sacred pos- 
session, and the old learned men who had hidden their sacred rongo- 
rongo in caves at the time when Father Eugenio introduced Christianity 
had put a taboo upon their hieroglyphic boards, so that all who touched 
them should die. This the natives fully and firmly believed. 

There were only some twenty specimens of these wooden tablets in 
all the museums in the world, and none of the world's scholars had so 


far been able to make out the inscriptions. They were artistically written 
symbols of a type not found among any other people: the signs were 
prettily cut in a row conforming to a continuous serpentine system in 
which every other line was upside down. The tablets which are pre- 
served today were nearly all handed over by their native owners while 
they still kept them in their homes. But Father Sebastian was able to 
tell us about the last which left the island; it had been found in a taboo 
cave. The native who found it had let himself be tempted by an Eng- 
lishman whom he took to a place nearby the cave. The Englishman had 
been told to wait there, and the native had laid a semicircle of small 
stones before him, which he must not cross. Then the native disappeared 
and came back with a rongo-rongo, which the foreigner bought. A 
short time afterward the native suddenly went out of his mind, and he 
actually died. This had done much to increase the natives' old fear of 
breaking the taboo of a rongo-rongo cave, Father Sebastian said. 

Whatever the reason may have been, old Kasimiro too drew back 
when at last I accepted his offer to take me to the cave. He said he did 
not feel very well, but proposed instead that old Pakomio should show 
us the place; he had been there too when, as small boys, they had had 
to stand and wait while Kasimiro's father went to the cave alone. Old 
Pakomio was a son of the prophetess Angata, who had started so much 
trouble and superstitition when the Routledge expedition was there 
forty years earlier. I approached him through Father Sebastian, who 
finally persuaded Pakomio to show us the way. 

Old Pakomio reverently climbed on board our motor launch, and 
we went out to the bird-men's rocky island, Motunui. Behind our backs 
we had the highest precipice on Easter Island hanging over our heads. 
On its sharp, topmost crest lay the deserted stone ruins of the ancient 
cult center Orongo. Ed was digging and surveying up there with his 
men. We could barely make them out as white dots, and they saw the 
boat below them as a little grain of rice floating in the blue. 

As late as the last century the mightiest men in the island used to 
sit for weeks on end in the half-subterranean stone houses up on the 
lofty cliff watching for the year's first migration of sooty terns, which 
settled on the little rock island of Motunui down below. It was an an- 


The Mystery of the Easter Island Giants 

nual competition to swim out to that island on a reed float and find 
the very first egg that was laid there. The man who became owner of 
that egg was exalted to a kind of divinity : he had his head shaved and 
painted red, he was led in procession to a sacred hut among the statues 
at the foot of Rano Raraku, and there he had to remain indoors in the 
shade for a year, without contact with the common people. Food was 
taken to him by special servants, and he was designated the sacred 
bird-man of the year. The surface of the whole rock face by the ruins 
where Ed was now working was decorated with one confused mass of 
arch-backed men with long curved birds' beaks, carved as relief sculp- 
tures in the rock. 

When we went ashore at the legendary bird island, not so much as 
a feather was to be seen. All the birds had moved to another precipitous 
rocky island farther along the coast. When we had passed it in the 
motor launch, a swarm of birds rose up like a smoke cloud over a 

On Motunui we found without trouble the entrances to a number 
of partially overgrown caves. In a few of them human bones and skulls 
green with age lay along the walls. In one a carved, diabolical, red- 
painted head with a goatee beard thrust forward, like a trophy, from 
the roof. Mrs. Routledge had been in two of these caves. Pakomio stood 
waiting impatiently outside. He remembered Mrs. Routledge well. 
But it was not these caves he was to show us. He took us halfway up 
the cliff and stopped suddenly. 

"It was here we baked the chicken," he whispered, pointing to the 
ground just in front of him. 

"What chicken?" 

"Kasimiro's father had to bake a chicken in the earth to bring good 
luck before he went into the cave." 

We did not quite get the point, and all Pakomio could add was that 
this was the custom, and that only the old man had been allowed to 
stand where he could smell the baked chicken; the children had to keep 
to the other side of the hearth so that none of the odor could enter their 
nostrils. They had not even been allowed to see the things that were 
in the cave, but they knew they were immensely valuable. It had been 


an experience for Pakomio and Kasimiro just to be allowed to stand 
nearby and know that the old man was inside inspecting all that wealth. 

Of course we did not find the secret cave. When we had made a long 
and thorough search for the secret entrance among ferns and boulders, 
Pakomio suggested that the old man might have gone that way just to 
trick them, and that the cave was sure to be in the opposite direction. 
When we had clambered about for a while in the opposite direction too, 
our interest began to flag. The sun was broiling hot, and one by one we 
gave up the search. Instead we flung ourselves headfirst into a cleft 
brimful of crystal-clear sea water pumped in by the ocean through a 
crack in the rock. We dived to the bottom after violet sea urchins, which 
Pakomio ate raw, and we bumped noses with the queer fish in colors 
competing with an artist's palette as they glided about. One by one 
they came gaping out of their hiding places to examine these new addi- 
tions to Motunui's natural rock aquarium. Glittering rays from above 
kindled a fireworks display on the marine life down in the sun-filled 
cleft, where the water was so clear that we felt like bird-men hovering 
among whirling autumn leaves. It was fantastically beautiful, a Garden 
of Eden under the sea. We could hardly bring ourselves to climb up 
onto the dry, hot rocks again, knowing that all the priceless beauty of 
the pool would be abandoned, perhaps forever, to eyeless sea urchins 
and color-blind fish. 

But we had other uses for our eyes on Easter Island, for picks and 
spades were beginning to expose to the sunlight things which not even 
any native had seen for hundreds of years. People began to gossip in 
the village. They interpreted what was happening with a slight infusion 
of superstition. How could a foreigner know that old things lay hidden 
under the turf unless he was in direct contact with the island's own 
past, with the help of mana or supernatural power ? At first no one said 
it in so many words, but one or two came and asked me if I was not 
really a \ana\a, a local native, and not a foreigner. My light skin and 
fair hair meant nothing, for some of their ancestors had been white and 
red-haired, and the fact that I knew only a few words of Easter Island's 
Polynesian dialect merely signified that I had been in Tahiti and Nor- 
way and other foreign countries so long that I had forgotten most of 


* 4^* fWv 

*** M|l|M|Mi 

iw wf^ * * 


(Jrcat topknots of stone were placed, as wigs, on the heads of the statues 
after they were raised on the ahu platforms. The topknots were hewn from 
a red stone found in a crater seven miles from the quarry where the statues 
mifU Thp<;** thiw whirh li^ abanHonrH in the shallows were once 

Easter Island, the isle of a thousand mysteries, had never before been 
excavated. What secrets lay hidden under the soil? What mysterious navi- 
gators had found their way to the world's loneliest island? What had hap- 

pcncd, and when and why and how? At the foot of the extinct volcano of 
Rano Raraku. the statues' maternity home, stone giants stood silently side 
by side guarding the ancient secrets, their lips tightly locked. 

ABOVE: Proud features once were chiseled from hard stone. What race pro- 
vided the models for these great heads? BELOW: On the rim of the volcano 
Rano Kao lay Orongo, the ruined village of the bird-men. Ed and the doctor 

fff t r ri 11 r 

The Mystery of the Easter Island Giants 

my old language. At first none of us dreamed that they meant what 
they said. We took it as a kind of Polynesian compliment. But the more 
the archaeologists discovered under the turf, the more evident it was 
to the natives that there was something strange about Senor Kon-Tiki. 

It began with Bill's excavation team. Bill had chosen an exciting 
task. He was the first archaeologist to set to work on the most famous 
ruin on Easter Island, the great ahu at Vinapu. All who have seen this 
unusual piece of stonemason's work have been struck by its remarkable 
resemblance to the grand mural constructions of the Inca empire. There 
is nothing like it on the tens of thousands of other islands in the vast 
Pacific. Vinapu alone stands as a mirrored reflection of the classical 
masterpieces of the Incas or their predecessors, and it is all the more 
striking because it appears on the particular Polynesian island nearest 
to the Incas' own coast. 

Could it have been the master masons from Peru who had been at 
work out here too? Could it have been scions of their guild who had 
first landed and begun to chisel gigantic blocks for the Easter Island 

The evidence spoke for it. But there was indeed another possibility, 
which science hitherto had preferred. Technical similarity and geo- 
graphical proximity could be purely accidental, the result of mere co- 
incidence. The people of Easter Island could have produced this mas- 
terly and most intricate type of architecture as a result of independent 
evolution on their own little island. If this was correct, the classical wall 
at Vinapu was the last phase of a local development, and theoretical 
research had till now accepted this view without investigating the ruins. 

Bill worked at Vinapu for four months with twenty men. But the 
first few weeks provided the general answer we were eagerly awaiting. 
The central wall at Vinapu, with the classical stone masonry, belonged 
to the very oldest building period of Easter Island, contrary to all pre- 
vious theories. The ahu had twice been rebuilt and added to later by 
far less capable architects who were no longer masters of the compli- 
cated Inca type of technique. Ed and Carl, who had been working 
separately on other ahus rebuilt in antiquity, came independently to 
exactly the same result as Bill 


It was discovered for the first time that there were three clearly 
separated epochs in Easter Island's enigmatic history. First, a people 
of highly specialized culture, with the typical South American type of 
masonry technique, had been at work on Easter Island. Our carbon-i4 
datings testified that these earliest discoverers of the island had arrived 
more than a thousand years before the ancestors of the present Poly- 
nesian population. The classical buildings had no parallel in the later 
history of the island. Gigantic blocks of hard basalt were cut like cheese 
and fitted carefully to one another without a crack or a hole, and these 
mysterious constructions with their elegant steep walls stood for a long 
time, looking like altar-shaped and partly stepped fortresses all round 
the island. But then the second epoch had begun. Most of these early 
classical structures had been partially pulled down and altered, a paved 
slope had been built up against the inland wall, and giant figures in 
human form had been brought from Rano Raraku and erected with 
their backs to the sea on top of these rebuilt edifices, which now often 
contained burial chambers. 

It was while this gigantic task was at its height in the second epoch 
that everything came to a sudden and unexpected standstill. Not 
much more than a century before the Europeans came, led by Rog- 
geveen in 1722, a wave of war and cannibalism swept over the island: 
with the arrival of the genuine Polynesians, all cultural life came to an 
abrupt end, and the tragic third phase of Easter Island's history began. 
No one chiseled great stones now, and the statues were pulled down 
without reverence. Boulders and shapeless blocks were flung together to 
make funeral mounds along the walls of the ahus, and the great fallen 
statues were often used as improvised roofs for new burial vaults. The 
work was makeshift and utterly lacking in technical ability. 

As the archaeologists dug and scraped, rents were gradually appear- 
ing in the veil of mystery. The history of Easter Island was for the first 
time beginning to have depth. And one riddle was solved, one piece in 
the great puzzle placed: we knew now that the specialized South Amer- 
ican technique in mural construction was brought to Easter Island in a 
fully developed form. It was used by the people which had first landed 
on the island. 


The Mystery of the Easter Island Giants 

Serious natives came in crowds to look at the excavations at Vinapu, 
where Bill took care to uncover the concealed back wall of the ahu so 
that the stratification of all three epochs was clear to everyone. 

While all this was going on, one day Bill stumbled over an unusual 
red stone on the plain behind the excavation ground. He called me and 
asked if I shared his impression that the stone had two hands with 
fingers. It was a long brick-red stone, shaped like a four-sided column, 
and only the front of it protruded from the turf. It was not at all like 
the Easter Island statues, either in shape or substance. It was not even 
of Rano Raraku stone. Nor did the stripes which suggested fingers ap- 
pear at the very base of the column as in all the six hundred figures 
known on Easter Island. The natives smiled politely and explained that 
this was only a hani-hani, a red stone. 

However, what was visible above the turf reminded me of some- 
thing very special. It recalled some of the pre-Inca red column statues 
in the Andes. I had copied the bearded head on the sail of the Kon-Tify 
raft from just such a four-sided column representing a man, and it too 
was hewn from a choice red and rough-grained stone exactly like this. 

Two-four-five, two-four-five; yes, indeed, those could be fingers. But 
no head, or other human characteristic, was to be seen. 

"Bill," I said, "we must dig. I've seen four-sided red columns similar 
to that on the shore of Lake Titicaca!" 

Father Sebastian had once stopped at this stone when he was going 
round painting numbers on all the standing and lying statues on Easter 
Island. Eroria had pointed out the stripes that looked like fingers, but 
Father Sebastian had shaken his head and gone on with his paintbrush. 
All the statues on Easter Island were of one type, and none of them 
looked like the square-cut red stone down there in the earth. 

We carefully dug a deep trench in the thick turf all round the stone, 
and worked our way slowly in toward the sides of the column with a 
mason's trowel. Were those meant to be fingers, or was it only a stone 
with accidental furrows ? I was so excited that I held my breath as I cut 
away the first long strip of turf which covered what ought to be a hand. 
A hand it was! Forearm and upper arm came to light too, continuing all 
up one side of the statue, and it was the same on the opposite side. The 


figure even had short legs. It was a statue of a type hitherto unknown 
on Easter Island; unfortunately the head had been deliberately knocked 
off and a deep hole bored in the chest where the heart ought to be. 

We patted Bill on the shoulder and shook him by the hand. Father 
Sebastian, the commander of Easter Island's silent old stone guard, was 
more shaken than anyone else by the unexpected addition to his mighty 
force of a beheaded, red, four-sided soldier. 

"Dr. Mulloy, this is the most important find which has been made on 
the island in our time," he said. "This statue absolutely does not belong 
to Easter Island, it belongs to South America." 

"But it's been found here," Bill laughed, "and that's what counts." 
We raised the red statue with lifting tackle and twenty men to pull, 
till it stood upright with its short clumsy legs buried in a hole in the 
earth. The natives who hauled and struggled with the ropes had cause 
for astonishment, too. It was not a ham-ham after all, but how could we 
foreigners have known ? 

This was only the beginning. Soon afterward Ed dug a curious little 
smiling figure up out of the earth in a quite unknown temple he had 
uncovered near the bird-men's ruined village of Orongo on the top of 
Rano Kao. Father Sebastian, the governor, and crowds of natives made 
a pilgrimage up there to see. And where Arne's team was working, at 
the quarry in Rano Raraku, other peculiar things came to light down in 
the earth. The most impressive was a bulky giant with a figure as for- 
eign to Easter Island as the red statue at Vinapu. An innocent little 
corner of a rock with two eyes was all that had been visible when Arne 
began to dig. Thousands had gone past without seeing that the stone 
was staring at them, not dreaming that there was more under the soil. 
The eyes belonged to a burly troll weighing ten tons, which lay hidden 
with the turf as a quilt. 

A thick layer of fine rubble and masses of worn-out stone tools from 
the abandoned quarry above had buried this giant, and when we 
brought him to light, he had not a single feature in common with his 
stiff, blind, and legless neighbors. Both archaeologists and natives stared 
in equal amazement, and Father Sebastian and the governor had to be 
fetched again. This figure was so different. It had a fully developed 


The Mystery of the Easter Island Giants 

body with complete legs, and it was sculptured in a lifelike kneeling po- 
sition with a fat backside resting on its heels and with its hands placed 
on its knees instead of on the belly. It was not naked, like the others, 
but was wearing a short cloak or poncho, with a square opening for the 
neck. The head was quite round with a peculiar goatee beard and 
strange eyes with pupils; and the figure stared straight up with an ex- 
pression which no one had ever seen before on an Easter Island stone 

It took us a week to raise this giant, even with the help of the jeep, 
all our equipment, and multitudes of sailors and mystified natives. But 
one day it was there, in its humble kneeling position, staring reverently 
up to the sky. It seemed to be straining its eyes for other planets, for a 
world which had gone. What had it to do with us, uninitiated aliens? 
Where were its faithful old servants? And who were those stiff, long- 
nosed figures up above, whose birth rubble had buried its own person? 

When the newly raised figure stood there, as an alien among aliens, 
the men took their hats off, one by one, and wiped the sweat from their 
foreheads. Then they drew themselves up to gaze at the figure, as if 
expecting that something would happen. But the figure just knelt there 
motionless and ignored us all. 

Old Pakomio suggested quietly that it was now time to give the 
island a new name: it was now no longer Rapa Nui or Easter Island. 
Everything was changed, he said. Kasimiro and the whole team of ex- 
cavators agreed, but the mayor added that in that case they would have 
to find new names for Orongo, Vinapu, and Rano Raraku as well, for 
nothing was as before. I proposed that they should keep the old names, 
for the only change was that old sights were now being seen again. 

"Old sights are new to us, Senor Kon-Tiki," said Pakomio. "When 
one has lived on Easter Island all one's life, one remembers every little 
thing one sees. Now we don't remember all that we see round us, and 
so it isn't Easter Island any longer." 

"Then you can call the island the World's Navel, Te Pito o te 
Henna'/ I said in fun. 

They all brightened up, nodded and laughed as they recognized the 


"That's what they called our island in old times. So you knew that," 
said the mayor, with an inquisitive smile. 
"Why, everyone knows that," I said. 

"Everyone doesn't, but you're a fonafo." This came from an old man 
who was standing behind the statue, nodding slyly to show that he had 
realized the source of my knowledge. 

The natives had never seen anything like this new giant brought up 
out of the earth to become part of their own little world, kneeling in 
the hillside. But to Gonzalo and myself it was almost an old friend. We 
had both been at Tiahuanaco, the oldest pre-Inca cult center by Lake 
Titicaca, and there we had seen similar kneeling stone giants which 
could have easily been cut by the same master, so like they were in style, 
features, and position. They had knelt at Tiahuanaco for over a thou- 
sand years, along with the bearded red figure and other stiff four-sided 
columns depicting mysterious men, surrounded by the most enormous 
and best cut blocks of masonry which the whole Inca realm can offer. 
Indeed, in the whole of ancient America there is nothing to equal 
this imposing megalithic work. Archaeologists have discovered that the 
largest cut blocks weigh over a hundred tons. And they too were trans- 
ported for mile upon mile across the plain. They then were stood up on 
end and lifted up on top of one another as if they were empty cardboard 
boxes, and in the midst of these ruins of unroofed walls and terraces the 
old masters placed all their strange statues in human form. The largest 
is twenty-five feet high; many others are considerably smaller, but still 
of superhuman dimensions. 

Tiahuanaco lies there in the mountain plains, mysterious and deso- 
late, with all its statues and cut blocks of masonry, and the Incas say 
that these were there equally deserted and ownerless when the first Inca 
came into power. At that time, they say, the master sculptors had al- 
ready migrated into the open Pacific, and left the field to the primitive 
tribes of the Uru and Aymara Indians. Only the legend of vanished cre- 
ators of Tiahuanaco lived on. But for the moment we left the legends 
alone. We were digging in the earth for bare facts, and what we found 
were mute stone men. Tribal memories may be called upon later to blow 
life into the nostrils of the dead stone figures. 

The Mystery of the Easter Island Giants 

One of the mysterious things about the Easter Island statues had 
been that all were of the same type : one was astonishingly like another, 
and all were quite characteristic of Easter Island and nowhere else. 
Outside this one island there was nothing in the whole world which har- 
monized exactly with them. Before the dawn of history unknown civili- 
zations had abandoned large stone statues in human form all the way 
from Mexico down to Peru and Bolivia, and on the very nearest islands 
where the ocean current from Peru reaches the easternmost outposts of 
Polynesia. But none were precisely of the Easter Island style. And in 
the central and western Pacific, toward Asia, there are no statues 
of any kind at all. How could Easter Island's giant figures have been 
inspired from outside, when there was nothing quite like them any- 
where else ? Most research workers, therefore, have been led to believe 
that the idea once arose on this little oceanic island, independently of the 
outside world, gigantic and incomprehensible as the whole undertaking 
was. The more imaginative took refuge in the theory of a sunken con- 
tinent: similar statues must be found on the bottom of the sea. 

But now statues of different types were beginning to appear in the 
soil of Easter Island. Furthermore, inside the walls of several of the 
ahus we found a number of unusual figures, some of which had been 
smashed to pieces and only used as building stone and filling during the 
second cultural epoch, at the time when the classical walls had been 
rebuilt and the gigantic statues from Rano Raraku had been placed as 
huge monuments on top of them. Father Sebastian also suddenly recol- 
lected having stumbled upon a couple of figures the size of a man made 
of hard black basalt. One of them he had seen walled-in as foundation 
stone in the facade of an old ahu; only the broad back projected. And 
right in the actual village area Father Sebastian and the natives helped 
us to put another stout fellow on his legs. This too proved to be a de- 
viating and primitive type, and it was of the same kind of red stone 
as the headless figure at Vinapu. 

Now we were a long way nearer our goal; the second piece in the 
puzzle was soon in its place. We had discovered that the men who had 
built the beautiful South American type of walls in the first period had 
made statues unlike the famous stone giants from Rano Raraku which 


have made Easter Island so renowned. These alien figures left from the 
first epoch were generally not much larger than a man. They had round 
heads, short faces, and large eyes; they were sometimes of red tufif and 
sometimes black basaltj but also of the yellowish-gray Rano Raraku 
stone which became all important to the sculptors of the subsequent 
period. These earliest island statues had few features in common with 
the famous Easter Island giants except that they too usually held their 
arms flexed with both hands in a stiff position on their stomachs, so that 
the fingers pointed toward one another. This was also a peculiarity of 
a large number of old pre-Inca stone men and of the statues on the 
neighboring islands in Polynesia. 

Now at last we were on speaking terms with the taciturn statues of 
Easter Island. It was the abased and humiliated walled-up specimens 
that first loosened their tongues, and they set the haughty and defiant 
fellows up on the top gossiping too, right up to the quarry in the moun- 
tain. The family tree of the stone men had begun with a gust of wind 
from the other world which brought ideas and technique to the island 
along with the classical masonry. The stumpy figures which were later 
pushed as foundation rubble into the walls, the headless red pillar statue 
on the plain at Vinapu, and the large kneeling one which lay buried 
under the rubble at the foot of Rano Raraku, belonged to this early 

Then came another epoch in which local sculptors had invented a 
more elegant and exclusive style of their own, and bulky colossi with 
red hair were carved and carried up to the top of the numerous rebuilt 
walls. As the sculptors gained experience, the new colossi steadily in- 
creased in size: they became larger and larger, ever larger. Those which 
had already been erected on the ahus were big enough, but many of 
those which were left under way were bigger, and some of those which 
stood at the foot of the volcano waiting to have their backs finally 
chiseled were bigger still. And the biggest of all was the giant seven 
stories high who lay unfinished in the quarry itself, with his back as 
part of the solid rock. 

How would this local evolution have ended? Where would the limit 
of the possible have been ultimately fixed ? No one knows, for before 


The Mystery of the Easter Island Giants 

the limit was reached the catastrophe came which halted the advance 
of the marching stone giants, and they were all flung flat on the ground. 
All because the witch did not get her lobster, the present-day people of 
the island believed. But the fight was probably for stronger meat, for 
the march of the stone giants ended just when the third epoch began, 
and the cannibals suddenly took the stage. 

The population of the island today is the freshest shoot sprung from 
the victorious warrior tribe of the third epoch. It was no peaceful affair 
when their Polynesian ancestors arrived from the palm islands to west- 
ward. Of the battles which followed their arrival, of the statues which 
fell, of the time when adzes cut their way into men of flesh and blood 
instead of men of stone, we were soon to hear stories from the living 
population of the island. For during this epoch their own forefathers 
had really been present and played the leading part. The third epoch 
was not quite dead yet, although customs and beliefs of western civili- 
zation had been adopted, and although peace and tolerance now 
reigned on the island. 






The sun shone on our gleaming white ship anchored out- 
side the rocks in the bay. It seemed to have become a part of Easter 
Island, a landmark like the bird islands round the coast. No ship had 
ever remained at the island for so long none but those which had been 
washed up against the rocks and now lay at the bottom of the sea with 
the tops of their masts many fathoms beyond the grasp of the trade 

When the on-shore wind thundered too loud on the tent walls, the 
steward hurried out to the ship and brought ashore an extra supply of 
provisions, for it sometimes happened that the skipper sounded the 
siren and told us on the walkie-talkie that he must move out. Then 
the ship went off round the coast and found shelter under the cliffs 
behind the cape where we had first anchored, at the foot of Rano 
Raraku. For a day or two the bay in front of the camp looked painfully 
empty, like a familiar picture suddenly altered. But then one morning 

when we crawled out of our tents, the ship would be there, lying in her 
usual place, pitching in the morning sunshine. 

It was always a good feeling to return to Anakena Bay, whether we 
had been away from camp a day or a week. When we saw the white 
ship behind the black rocks, and in front of them the green tents on 
yellow grass and sunny sand dunes, all in a wide blue frame of sea and 
sky, then we were at home. At the end of the day's toil the breakers 
called aloud to us to come and bathe, and the steward hammered on his 
frying pan and invited us to a tasty dinner. In the evening we lay in 
groups on the grass and talked under the stars or in the brilliant moon- 
light. Some of us sat near the lamps in the mess tent, reading and writ- 
ing or listening to the phonograph, while others jumped onto horses 
and disappeared at a gallop over the ridge. The seamen had become 
regular cowboys on shore; and when the men were starting for the 
village of Hangaroa, the old temple square in front of the tents was a 
regular circus ring full of neighing and rearing horses. The messboy 
broke an arm by taking a short cut through the scree, and the doctor 
had to set it. But what sacrifices will a man not make to arrive quickly 
in a distant village when a real hula dance is the attraction ? 

We soon knew most of the people in the village. But the black-eyed 
village doctor was rarely to be seen even by those who went to the hula 
dancing, and his friend the schoolmaster we never saw. They did not 
attend Father Sebastian's little church, and so were never present at the 
Sunday dinners which followed, either at the nuns' house or with the 
governor and his wife. But one day fate unexpectedly brought the 
schoolmaster into our world. 

The governor had asked several times on behalf of the school if the 
children might make a trip round the island in the expedition ship: it 
would mean so much to them all. They could go ashore at Anakena and 
have a picnic lunch in front of the camp. When Father Sebastian told 
me that none of them had ever seen their own island from the sea, ex- 
cept from the village bay, I promised to ask the skipper to bring the 
ship round to the village. In fact, the whole of the main deck was ad- 
mirably suited to children, for it had high sides curved inward which no 
child could climb over. Furthermore, as everybody said, the native 


The Long-Ears 9 Secret 

children could swim like fish; they began to lark about in the bay long 
before they started school. 

We dropped anchor off Hangaroa early one morning in fine 
weather, and 115 native school children were taken on board: they were 
an eighth part of the population of the whole island. The schoolmaster 
himself, the village doctor and his assistant, the governor's assistant, 
three nuns, and seven adult natives went along to look after the chil- 
dren. There were cheers and shouting all over the deck, the children 
sang and were wildly excited. But when the anchor was raised with a 
clatter and crash, and the siren sounded a farewell to the village, most 
of them seemed to become quieter and looked almost sadly shoreward 
toward their homes. It was as though they were going on a voyage 
round the world instead of a daytime trip around Easter Island. After 
all, this was their entire world. 

When the ship began to pitch gently in a long, shining swell, the 
children were all seasick without exception. The only one of the guests 
who was in top form was the schoolmaster. He had been full of energy 
from the moment he came on board, a portly figure amid the crowd of 
children. He declared that he had never been seasick, though he had 
made countless voyages in all kinds of weather. With his raven hair and 
flashing black eyes the schoolmaster reminded us of his friend the vil- 
lage doctor, and he immediately displayed the same political leanings. 
But even if his black eyes were as hard as coals when he was preaching 
politics, something gentle came into his face when he took out his pencil 
to draw the rolling contours of the coast in his diary, or when he saw a 
chance of patting one of the children on the head. He stumped about, 
a solid sturdy figure, consoling his seasick pupils in their own Poly- 
nesian language. Now he was sitting with some of them and giving 
them pills, now he was dancing off to the rails dragging a long, weedy 
lad whose signs and gestures made it evident to everyone that a clear 
road was needed. 

As we rounded the cape the sea became so quiet that some of the 
bigger children forgot their seasickness. Instead of following our advice 
and remaining amidships where there was the least movement, they all 
wanted to go forward into the bow to watch the seas being plowed 


aside. Soon the schoolmaster had to step in and drag them back, green 
and gaping, to a horizontal position on the hatch. There was no further 
gaiety till we entered Anakena Bay. Then the children suddenly came 
to life and Polynesian singing again filled the air. 

When the ship lay in her usual place oflf the camp at Anakena, all 
the children were brought ashore and shown the tent village on Hotu 
Matua's old site. Then their chaperons took the whole party down to a 
temple terrace, where they picnicked in the grass at the foot of the wall. 
A few natives had come over the island on horseback to help, and six 
lambs were baked in Polynesian fashion between hot stones in the earth. 
The afternoon passed, and while the children went swimming and diving 
in the bay, another group, led by a nun, was enthusiastically singing their 
ancestors' song of Hotu Matua, who had come here to Anakena Bay. 

Suddenly the schoolmaster looked at his watch, clapped his hands, 
and told the children to get ready to leave. The sea was quiet with a 
gentle rolling swell, and the motor launch lay as usual moored to the 
large raft anchored a little way from shore. The children had been using 
it as a diving board. The engineers went out with the first boatload to 
get everything ready on board, and when the launch came back, the 
schoolmaster stood on the beach again rounding up pupils for another 
trip. The second group was rowed out to the large, anchored raft via the 
little landing raft, and some of the children treated themselves to an ex- 
tra farewell plunge by swimming alongside. When the launch had gone 
for the second time, some rowdy boys swam out on their own and 
crawled onto the raft to await the next trip. The schoolmaster, therefore, 
went out to the raft himself to exercise better control, and when the 
launch started for the ship he was in it. The other grownups in charge 
of the children remained ashore to divide the rest of them for the last 

Then the accident happened, like a bolt from a clear sky. While the 
launch was chugging peacefully round the outermost point on her way 
to the ship, the children began to move about. Everybody suddenly 
wanted to rush forward and see the bow wave. The schoolmaster tried 
with all his might to keep order among the children, but now they did 
not even listen to Polynesian. The carpenter put the engine in reverse, 


The Long-Ears' Secret 

and he bellowed at the children to go back, but at the same second catas- 
trophe came in the shape of a leisurely wave. The launch, with a ca- 
pacity of two tons and only half-loaded, ran her bow deep into the side 
of the slow surge and filled in an instant. All that was to be seen was 
the stern and a mass of swimmers* heads. 

On the ship a boat was immediately swung out, while the expedition 
doctor and I jumped onto the landing raft down on the beach. All the 
others ran out to the far end of the point, which was only about eighty 
yards from the scene of the disaster. I turned my head as we hurriedly 
rowed out and saw that some of the children were swimming in toward 
the point, but most of them were bobbing up and down in one place 
round the stern of the boat. 

We were soon there, and went straight for the carpenter and a native 
schoolboy who were swimming side by side supporting two helpless 
creatures. When we hauled them up on the raft, I saw that one was the 
mayor's thirteen-year-old daughter, a pretty little girl with strikingly 
white skin and red-gold hair. Then I dived in, while the doctor stayed 
on the raft to row about and haul children on board. 

Now the first swimmers from the point had arrived too, headed by 
the skipper. We picked up children one by one and shoved them up 
onto the raft. Most of them were quite apathetic and only let themselves 
bob up and down without making any attempt to save themselves. 
When the raft was almost packed full, the skipper and carpenter came 
swimming up with the schoolmaster whose huge form floated by itself. 
It took several men to heave the top part of his body onto the raft. Now 
all our sailors from ashore were at the scene, as well as the village doc- 
tor's assistant and half a dozen natives. These swimmers began to push 
the raft in toward the point while the doctor rowed like fury in spite of 
all the children on top of him. 

The skipper and I went on swimming around to make sure we had 
overlooked no one. Then the ship's boat arrived, and the engineers dived 
from her, but there was nothing left at the bottom except discarded 
clothing. Forty-eight children were on board the ship already, and a 
count of those ashore showed that no one was missing. 

When we reached the point, all the children from the raft had been 


carried ashore onto the rocks, where our own doctor conducted artificial 
respiration with the help of the village doctor's assistant and bystanders. 
The village doctor, who had been standing on the point receiving those 
arriving on the raft, had jumped on board to take it right into the beach 
when it proved impossible to haul the heavy schoolmaster up on the 
sharp lava rocks. 

In the harrowing hours which followed, while night sank over the 
island, the village doctor worked on his friend the schoolmaster on the 
beach, helped by our biggest and strongest men, while out on the point 
all the rest worked over the children. Nearly a dozen were in need of 
treatment. Everywhere people were running about with kerosene lamps, 
carrying blankets and clothes. Up in the camp Yvonne had thrown all 
the tents open and was serving hot food. As riders began to stream in 
from the village, people swarmed into the tents and all around us in the 

It was a night of dread which I shall never forget. 
An atmosphere of horror hung over Anakena Valley and was em- 
phasized by a strange gray and colorless sort of rainbow which stretched 
itself gloomily over the black night sky, just where the moon was hid- 
den behind the ridge. The children came back to life one by one and 
were carried into the tents and put to bed. But the hours passed, and two 
of them did not move. One was the little red-haired girl. The mayor 
sat motionless by her side and said in a calm voice: 
"She's well off. She's always been good, she's with the Virgin Mary." 
I have never felt grief at such close quarters. I have never seen people 
take it more quietly. Those who had lost their children took our hands 
silently in both of theirs as if to show us that they knew that we who 
owned the boat could not help what had happened. Those whose chil- 
dren had been saved flung themselves on our necks and wept. 

The last to come up from the beach were eight men carrying the 
schoolmaster on a stretcher. The sky was black and the gray arch of the 
colorless rainbow still lay across it as a frame above the eight lanterns 
swinging in the night. The village doctor looked at me with quiet, coal- 
black eyes. He said : "The island has lost a good man, Senor. He died at 
his post and his last words were: 'Kau fou potyl' Tread water, boys!' " 

The Long-Ears' Secret 

The next time I saw the village doctor was in Father Sebastian's 
little church. He was standing motionless with bared head beside his 
friend's bier. The two children had been buried the day before with a 
simple and beautiful ceremony. The whole village had walked in the 
funeral procession singing gently of the two who had gone to heaven. 
Today Father Sebastian's address was short but warm. 
"You have loved your pupils," he ended. "May you meet again." 

On the way to the burial place, we heard the village doctor mutter- 
ing: "Tread water, boys. Tread water." 

The natives forgot the whole disaster incredibly fast. The relatives 
at once began to slaughter cattle and sheep for the great feasts which 
they always held when they lost their dear ones. They even came riding 
over to us with whole haunches of oxen and large quantities of other 
meat. But what surprised us most were the conditions inside the tents 
after everything had been tidied up. For two centuries the most notori- 
ous characteristic of the natives of Easter Island has been thieving, the 
pilfering of everything they can lay their hands on. On that dark, tragic 
night there had been no guard, all the natives went in and out of the 
tents as they liked, and everything we owned lay in the open. We did 
not expect to see a single thing again. But we were completely wrong. 
Nothing had gone: not a hat, not a comb, not a shoelace. And all the 
dry clothes and blankets which were lent to the children when they 
went away on horseback, came back from the village, washed and 
ironed, in neat piles. Nothing was missing. 

However, one of our men had thrown his watch into his hat on 
shore when he dived in to the rescue. That watch was stolen by a native 
out on the point while the owner was in the water saving children. It 
was a shabby action, but of little importance. 

I met Father Sebastian in the churchyard for the first time after the 
disaster. "It was terrible about the children," was all I could say. 

"It was worse about the stolen watch," said Father Sebastian without 
blinking an eyelid. 
"What do you mean?" I asked, quite shocked at his answer. 

Father Sebastian laid his hand on my shoulder and said calmly: 
"We all have to die. But we don't have to steal." 


I shall never forget those words. I merely gazed at him quite be- 
wildered until I suddenly realized once again that I had met here on 
Easter Island a great personality, perhaps the greatest I had ever known. 
His teachings were to him as real as life itself, not just edifying words 
reserved for Sundays, To him teachings and beliefs were completely 

He said no more, and silently we walked back to the village. 

A few days later I met Father Sebastian again. I had halted all work 
during those days, but the natives did not like that. When the sun had 
risen and set and risen again, yesterday was yesterday, and today today, 
and they wanted to work for more rations, more daily pay, and more 
goods. The mayor sat on his steps and carved a bird-man out of a large 
chunk of wood while the shavings flew thick and fast, and he smiled 
and waved and showed his work as the jeep passed. 

We stopped outside Father Sebastian's little house next to the 
church, and I saw him through the window. He beckoned to me to 
come into his little study, where he sat at a table thickly covered with 
papers and letters. On the wall behind him was a shelf of books written 
in an impressive number of languages. They formed a colorful and 
learned frame for the big and bearded old sage who sat in his white 
robe with turned-down hood behind a small table. The only thing I 
missed, which would have made the picture perfect, was a large quill 
pen in an inkstand on the table; Father Sebastian had a fountain pen. 
But to make up for that, an old stone adz lay there as a paperweight. 

This old priest was a man of exception for our own twentieth cen- 
tury. While he was indeed completely at home among us, he might just 
as easily have represented a learned monk in a medieval painting, or a 
bust of a Roman sage, or a portrait of a scholar on a Greek vase or on a 
clay tablet from old Sumeria. Father Sebastian could have lived among 
any people for thousands of years past and been himself, with no ad- 
justments, and still the joy of life and youth would have shone from 
his blue eyes. 

That day Father Sebastian was full of enthusiasm; he had something 
particular on his mind. He wanted to ask me to start excavation at a 


The Long-Ears' Secret 

very special place on the island, a place which figured more than any 
other in the traditions of the natives. 

I heard for the twentieth time the legend of Iko's ditch, or the long- 
ears' earth oven. Everyone who has landed on Easter Island has heard 
the legend, everyone who has written about the mystery of the island 
has dealt with it. The natives had shown me the marks in the earth 
where the ditch had once been, and all had been eager to tell me the 
story. Father Sebastian had reported the tradition in his own book. Now 
I heard it from his own lips, with a request that I would set a team to 
dig in the ditch. 

"I believe in the legend," he said. "I know that science has claimed 
that the ditch is natural, but scientists can make mistakes. I know the 
natives. The tradition of the ditch is too living to be mere fancy." 

The story of the long-ears' defense ditch begins far back in the leg- 
ends of the present population. It begins where the march of the statues 
ends, and describes the catastrophe which put an end forever to Easter 
Island's golden age. 

There had then been two peoples on the island, and they lived side 
by side all over it. One of these peoples had a peculiar appearance: their 
men and women pierced their ears and put heavy weights into the lobes 
till the ears were artificially lengthened right down to the shoulders. 
For this reason they were called Hanau eepe, "long-ears," while the 
other people were the Hanau momo\o, "short-ears," 

The long-ears were an energetic people, filled with plans for im- 
proving the island, and the short-ears had to toil to help them make 
walls and statues. The long-ears 1 last idea was to rid the whole of Easter 
Island of superfluous stone, so that all the earth could be cultivated. 
This work was begun on the Poike Plateau, the easternmost part of the 
island, and the short-ears had to carry every single loose stone to the 
edge of the cliff and fling it into the sea. On the grassy peninsula of 
Poike today there is not a loose stone, while the rest of the island is 
thickly covered with black and red scree and lava blocks. 

Now things were going too far for the short-ears. They were tired 
of carrying stones for the long-ears. They decided on war. The long- 
cars fled from every part of the island and established themselves at 

the easternmost end, on the cleared Poike Peninsula. Under the com- 
mand of their chief, Iko, they dug a trench nearly two miles long 
which separated the Poike Plateau from the rest of the island. This 
trench they filled with a great quantity of branches and tree trunks till 
it was a gigantic far-flung pyre, ready to be set on fire if the short-ears 
on the plain below tried to storm the slope leading to the plateau. 
Poike Peninsula was like a huge fortress, with a sheer drop of six hun- 
dred feet all round the coast: thus the long-ears felt themselves secure. 

But one of the long-ears had a short-eared wife: her name was Moko 
Pingei and she was living up on Poike with her husband. She was a 
traitress and had arranged a signal with the short-ears down on the 
plain. When they saw her sitting, plaiting a large basket, the short- 
ears were to steal in a long file past the place where she sat. 

One night the short-ears' spies saw Moko Pingei plaiting a basket at 
one end of Iko's ditch, and they stole one by one past the place where 
she sat, right at the edge of the cliff. They sneaked on along the outer 
edge of the plateau till at last they had completely surrounded Poike. 
Another army of short-ears down on the plain marched openly up 
toward the ditch. The unsuspecting long-ears lined up to face them 
and set fire to the whole pyre. Then the other short-ears rushed for- 
ward from their hiding places, and in the bloody fight which followed 
all the long-ears were burned in their own ditch. 

Only three of the long-ears succeeded in leaping through the fire and 
escaping in the direction of Anakena. One of them was called Ororoina 
and another Vai, but the name of the third is forgotten. They hid in a 
cave which the inhabitants can point out to this day. There they were 
found, and two of them were stabbed to death with sharp stakes, while 
the third and last, Ororoina, was allowed to remain alive as the only 
surviving long-ear. When the short-ears dragged him out of the cave, 
he shouted orro, orro, orro in his own language, but this was a language 
which the short-ears did not understand. 

Ororoina was taken to the house of one of the short-ears who was 
named Pipi Horeko and lived at the foot of the hill called Toatoa. 
There he married a short-ear of the Haoa family and had many de- 
scendants, among them Inaki-Luki and Pea. They in turn had a num- 


A long-car of Easter Island with beard and feather crown, drawn on the 

spot during Captain Cook's visit. 

her of descendants, the last of whom are still living among the short* 
ears on the island now. 

This was the tradition of the long-ears' ditch as related by Father 
Sebastian. I knew that the two expeditions before ours had heard varia- 
tions of the same tradition, and had been to look at the remains of the 
ditch. Mrs. Routledge had been doubtful, and was inclined to think that 
the ditch itself must have been a natural geological depression which 
the long-ears might have used in self-defense. Metraux went still fur- 
ther. His conclusion was that the ditch was merely a natural formation, 
that the whole legend was inspired by the natives' urge to explain a 
geographical peculiarity, that the whole story of the long-ears and 
short-ears was an invention of the people in fairly recent times. 1 

A professional geologist had also been up to have a look at the 
long-ears' ditch, and he concluded that the ditch was a natural forma- 
tion caused in prehuman times by a flow of lava from the center of 
Easter Island, which had run into an older congealed flow from Poike; 
where they met, a kind of ditch had been formed. 

When the specialists had given their verdict, the natives were be- 
wildered. But they stuck to their guns: this was Iko's defense ditch, 
the long-ears' earth oven. And Father Sebastian believed in their version. 
"It means something to me personally if you will dig there," he said, 
and he almost leaped with excitement when I agreed. 

Carl was to direct the excavation of the long-ears' ditch. We jolted 
off next day with five natives in the jeep, along a cleared track through 
the stony plain to Poike. Above us Poike's smooth grassy slopes lay like 
green carpet, but around us and behind lay the scree, like a covering of 
black coke. Up on Poike we could have driven freely where we liked 
with the jeep, but we stopped at the foot of the slope, where all the 
grass began. All along the hillside from north to south we saw a faint 
depression in the ground. In some places it was fairly deep, in others it 
disappeared for short stretches, then became apparent again, continuing 
right out to the precipices on both sides of the peninsula. Here and there 
we saw a hummock like a bulwark of earth on the upper side of the 

1 Alfred Metraux, Ethnology of Easter Island (Honolulu, 1940), pp. 72-74. 

The Long-Ears 9 Secret 

depression. This was Ko te Ava o I \o, Iko's ditch, or Ko te Umu o te 
Hanau eepe, the long-ears' earth oven. 

Carl wanted to test the ground at a few points first before we began 
to dig in earnest. We walked slowly along the depression and stationed 
each of the five natives at wide intervals; each of them was told to dig 
a rectangular hole straight down through the soil. Never have I seen 
natives take up pick and shovel with greater zeal. As no damage could 
be done, we went for a short turn along the plateau. When we came 
back down the slope to look at the first experimental hole, the old fellow 
digging there was a good six feet down in the ground, hacking and 
shoveling as the sweat ran off him. In the mustard-yellow earth wall 
round him we saw a broad red-and-black horizontal stripe. Charcoal 
and ashes in thick layers! There had once been a great fire down in 
this earth, and Carl was sure that the heat had been intense, or else the 
fire had burned for a long time; otherwise the ash would never have 
become as red as this. Before he could say any more, I was off across 
the hillside to look into the next hole. Carl hurried after me. 

The village sexton, Josef, stuck his smiling face up out of the earth 
farther on. He had found the same remains of a fire, and showed us a 
handful of carbonized boughs and pieces of wood. We ran on to the 
next hole, and the next. At each one we were met by the same sight, the 
flaming red band of ashes surrounded by black carbonized remains 
which wound round the walls of the hole. 

Father Sebastian was summoned, and he ran from hole to hole to 
look at the red ash, his white gown fluttering in the breeze. His face 
was radiant as we rode by the taciturn statues of Rano Raraku on our 
way to dinner at Anakena. He looked back on the great triumph of the 
day and forward to good food and good Danish beer, for now we must 
go to the camp and refresh ourselves for the exciting adventure of the 
next day, when the real digging would start on Poike. 

Next morning a team of diggers was set to uncover an exact cross 
section of the depression, and in the days that followed Carl started 
excavations which revealed the whole secret of the ditch. The topmost 
part of the depression indeed was merely the work of nature and fol- 
lowed the border of an old lava flow. But deeper down industrious men 


had been at work. They had hewn their way into the rock and con- 
structed an artificial defense ditch with a rectangular bottom, twelve 
feet deep, about forty feet wide, and nearly two miles long across the 
hillside. It had been a gigantic undertaking. Slingstones and carved 
slabs were found down among the ash. Sand and rubble cut away from 
the bottom of the ditch had been used to build a rampart along the 
upper side of the ditch, and the deposit of rubble there showed that it 
had been carried up from the ditch in large plaited baskets. 

We knew now that Iko's ditch was a defense work superbly laid 
out by man all along the hillside and that down in the ditch great 
quantities of wood had been piled and a huge fire lighted. We looked 
at the natives. Now it was our turn to stare: this they had known. From 
generation to generation they had been told that this filled-in depres- 
sion was the remains of Iko's defense work and the scene of the final 
slaughter of the long-ears. 

One of the easiest things for a modern archaeologist to put a date 
to is charcoal from an old fire. Its age is fixed within certain limits by 
measuring its radioactivity, which diminishes at a known rate from 
year to year. This is known as carbon-i4 dating. The great fire in the 
long-ears' earth oven had burned about three hundred years before our 
own time. But the whole of the elaborate defense works in the ditch 
had been built by men long before this final catastrophe, for the ditch 
was half-filled with sand when the defense pyre against the short-ears 
was constructed and burned. There were remains of fires farther down, 
and the original makers of the ditch had flung up the gravel and earth 
onto a hearth on the ground above, which dated from about 400 AJD. 
This was the oldest date which had been established so far in any part 
of Polynesia. 

Fresh life had now been breathed into the story of the long-ears, 
both in the village and in the camp at Anakena. There seemed to be more 
meaning to the giant statues with their curiously long beaglelike ears. 

One evening I strolled among the long-eared statues at the foot of 
Rano Raraku. I had so much to think about, and one thinks best alone 
under the stars. One does not really know a place properly till one has 


Down in the earth great naked stone bodies appeared as we excavated round 
the giants' heads. Centuries of blowing sand and shifting gravel had grad- 
ually buried the old giants up to their necks. 

A man feels very small when digging his way down along the body of an 
Easter Island statue. But how had the unknown sculptors of antiquity 
transported and erected these giants with no mechanical equipment? 


ABOVE: The natives demonstrate the use of reed floats, or poras, in the Rano 
Raraku crater lake. BELOW: The reed fishing boat was another incredible 
craft. It had a balsa raft's advantage of being unsinkablc and rode the sea 
like a swan. 


''' 1 '' > ' 1 ' 1 ' ''"'' '' " 

&u#rw4W&^.,,. - A *.. * . **' ; yi 

,'.'V% ':,.'.," .vni.,^,:, ' ;;-.;.(-,."**,, , > ,,1^ 

''^ifib^ftyfa.'^.' .-<$ " 

: AH 4, ston, g^s which once ^n , up a, 
sites many miles from the quarry now he w Ihtheir 
overthrown in the third epoch of the uland s_ h,ory.^ ta^ 

The Long-Ears 9 Secret 

slept there. I have slept in the queerest places on the altar stone in 
Stonehenge, in a snowdrift on the top of Norway's highest mountain, 
in adobe chambers in the deserted cave villages of New Mexico, by 
the ruins of the first Inca's birthplace on the Island of the Sun in Lake 
Titicaca. Now I wanted to sleep in the old stone quarry in Rano 
Raraku. Not because I was superstitious and believed that the spirits 
of the long-ears would come and betray their secrets, but because I 
would like to assimilate fully the peculiar atmosphere of the place. I 
clambered over huge stone bodies lying up on the ledges until I was 
in the midst of a swarm of figures at a place where one giant had 
been removed from his birthplace. The bed in which he had been born 
lay empty, like a theater box with a canopy. 

From here I had a splendid view of the countryside, and here I 
should keep dry if it poured rain. For the moment the weather was 
superb. The sun was about to descend behind the silhouette of Rano 
Kao's steep volcanic wall at the other end of the island, and red, purple, 
and lilac cloudbanks had rolled up as a screen before the bed of the 
retiring sun-god. Neverthless the sun managed to thrust some silver 
rays through and down onto the breakers far away, which slowly and 
noiselessly moved shoreward in their unceasing attack on the distant 
corner of the island. The rays of the evening sun filled the foaming 
crests with gleaming silver, and silvery dust hung in the air at the 
volcano's foot. It was a sight for the gods. And among a multitude of 
giant gods I sat, a solitary little human being. 

I tore off a few stiff tufts of grass and swept the foot of the giant's 
forsaken bed clear of sand and sheep's dung. Then in the last paling 
rays of the sun I made myself a good bed of grass and ferns. Down on 
the plain below me I heard two girls singing tender Polynesian love 
songs. A shepherd going to his hut stopped along the way to set fire 
to the grass. The dry season had long since begun, and the grass was 
yellow and stiff. It had to be burned away so that new grass might come 
through fresh and green for the sheep. As long as it was light I saw 
only the smoke from the grass fires, which lay like a gray fog over the 
plain. Then night came and the smoke was swallowed up by the dark- 
ness, but not the fire. The darker it grew the brighter the flames shone 


out, and soon the innocent grass fires looked like a thousand red pyres 
in the night. 

Suddenly there was a cold breeze, and I pulled the sleeping bag 
well up under my chin as I lay listening to the silence of the night, 
drinking in the whole atmosphere of the long-ears' quarry. The sil- 
houettes of the burly giants round me looked like black theater sets 
framing a stage. Now the action moved to the dark plain below, where 
fire continually sprang up in new places. It looked as if a thousand in- 
visible short-ears were stealing in on a wide front, torch in hand, to 
storm the quarry. Time had again ceased to exist. Night and the stars 
had always been there, and man who played with fire. 

I was just dropping off to sleep with this impression burned into my 
mind when I suddenly heard something prowling quietly and cau- 
tiously in the dry grass. Who could be fueling his way about so care- 
fully up here in the quarry? Natives looking for what I had put down 
beside me in the dark ? There was a pattering noise close by my head, 
and I twisted myself round and switched on the flashlight. Not a soul. 
Only monstrous eyebrows and a couple of gigantic noses stuck up out 
of the grass on the ledge next to me, and threw queer shadows on the 
rock. It had clouded over and was beginning to rain a little, but not 
where I lay. I turned off the light and tried to sleep. Again the pattering 
noise around me, and this time in the glow of the flashlight I caught 
sight of a brown cockroach as big as my thumb. I fumbled about and 
got hold of a clumsy stone pick, one of the type strewn about every- 
where in the quarry. But before I got in a blow at the creature, I saw 
another sitting motionless beside it, and another, and another, I had 
never before seen such large cockroaches on Easter Island. They sat in 
groups on the rock wall beside me, on the roof over my head, a couple 
were actually sitting on my sleeping bag. I took the stone pick and 
killed the largest ones nearest to me, and swept off those which were 
on the sleeping bag. Suddenly I caught sight of two fearful eyes staring 
right into my face, with a grinning toothless mouth beneath them. This 
was sheer nightmare. The horrible face proved to be a rock carving of 
a terrifying ma\e-ma\c spirit which had, in the remote past, been 
carved on the wall just by my head. 


The Long-Ears 9 Secret 

I killed a few more cockroaches, but finally decided to yield to su- 
perior numbers; otherwise I should sit there murdering the whole 
night. I pulled the hood of my sleeping bag well down over my head 
and tried to doze off. But the rock was uncomfortable. I thought how 
appallingly hard this rock really was, not to lie on, but to hew. I grasped 
the stone pick once more and hit the wall of the quarry as hard as I 
could. I had done it before, and knew well that the pick sprang back 
from the wall without making any mark but a light dusty patch. In 
fact, the skipper had been up here with me once and tried his luck with 
hammer and chisel, and it took him half an hour to chip off a piece 
the size of his own fist. We had figured that over 700,000 cubic feet 
had been hewn out of the solid rock just on the ledges visible from 
where we stood, and the archaeologists thought that this estimate could 
safely be doubled. It was incomprehensible. Yet an idea that I had been 
toying with for a long time forced its way back into my mind. Why not 
start an experiment? The stone picks still lay where the sculptors had 
flung them down, and the last long-ear still had living descendants in 
the village. Perhaps work could actually be started in the old quarry 

Next morning the sun shone golden over the plain, and only a 
mass of wings and bent legs lay around me to show that the invasion of 
cockroaches had not been a dream. I saddled my horse and galloped 
along the ancient grass-grown track which led in the direction of the 
village bay. 

Father Sebastian gave me a roguish smile when I told him where 
I had come from and what I had in mind. He was at once in favor of 
the plan, so long as we chose a secluded corner of the quarry and did 
not spoil the impression of Rano Raraku as seen from the plain below. 
But I did not want just anyone to help me make a statue. Knowing 
that Father Sebastian was the leading authority on local family trees, 
and had published a genealogy of Easter Island, I told him that I was 
looking for natives who were descended from the last long-ear. 

"There's only one family left today which is descended in a direct line 
from Ororoina," said Father Sebastian. "It's a family which chose the 
surname Adam when Christianity was introduced in the last century. 

Or Atan, as the natives of this island pronounce it. You know the eldest 
of the brothers: he's Pedro Atan, the mayor." 

"The mayor!" I was more than a little surprised and could not help 

"Yes, he's rather a buffoon, but he's by no means stupid, and he is a 
most friendly fellow," Father Sebastian assured me. 

"But he doesn't look like a native at all," I said. "His thin 1 , his 
narrow sharp nose, his light skin, . . ." 

"He's of pure native blood," Father Sebastian went on. "And there 
are only eighty or ninety of the native population who can claim that to- 
day. Besides, he's a genuine long-ear in direct descent on his father's side." 
I was on my horse in a twinkling and rode up on the rough village 
road to the mayor's little white-painted cottage. He was sitting working 
at a set of chessmen in the form of statues, bird-men, and other familiar 
Easter Island subjects. 

"This is for you, Senor," he said, proudly displaying his little master- 

"You're an artist, Mayor Don Pedro," I said. 

"Yes, the best on the island," was the glib reply. 

"Is it true that you're a long-ear too?" 

"Yes, Senor," said the mayor with the utmost gravity. He jumped up 
and stood at attention like a soldier who has been called out of the 

"I'm a long-ear, a genuine long-ear, and I'm proud of it," he said 
dramatically, striking himself on the chest. 

"Who made the great statues?" 

"The long-ears, Senor," he replied emphatically. 

"I've heard some of the other natives say it was the short-ears." 

"That's an absolute lie, Senor. They're trying to get credit for what 
my ancestors did. The long-ears made everything. Haven't you seen 
that the statues have long ears, Senor? You don't think the short-ears 
made statues of long-ears ? The statues are in memory of the long-ears' 
own chiefs." 

He was so excited that his chest was rising and falling and his thin 
lips trembling. 


The Long-Ears 9 Secret 

"I believe that it was the long-ears who made the statues/ 5 I said. 
"Now I myself want a statue made, and I will only have long-ears do 
the work. Do you think you can do it?" 

The mayor stood motionless for a few moments, with strangely 
trembling lips; then he drew himself up sharply. 

"" hall be done, Senor, it shall be done. How long is the statue 

"Oh, medium-size, fifteen to twenty feet high." 

"Then there must be six of us. We are only four brothers, but there 
are several others who are long-ears on their mother's side. Will that 
be all right?" 

"Quite all right." 

I rode up to the governor and got Pedro Atan temporarily released 
from his duties as mayor, and he and his relatives obtained permission 
to go to Rano Raraku and carve a statue. 

The day before the work was to begin I had been asked to keep a 
little food ready for the long-ears; I had ordered the statue and I must 
give the food, that was the custom. The day passed and no one collected 
the rations. One after another our people began to go to bed, first 
Yvonne with Anette in the tent beside the fallen giant, and soon the 
lights were put out all over the camp. Only Gonzalo, Carl, and I sat 
in the mess tent writing. 

Then we heard a curious, faint humming. It grew louder and 
louder, it was right in the camp. A rhythmic thumping on the grass 
began. Gonzalo rose, looking bewildered, and Carl opened his eyes 
wide. I myself listened quite enthralled : I had never heard anything like 
it during all my experiences in Polynesia. We opened the zipper of the 
tent and went out into the darkness. The photographer was just stag- 
gering out of his tent in pyjamas, and the lanterns were lit in one tent 
after the other. 

In the faint light which showed through the mosquito net of the 
mess tent, we saw a group of humped figures sitting in the middle of 
the camp, striking the ground with curiously carved war clubs, dancing 
paddles, and stone picks. Each of them had a featherlike crown of 
leaves round his head, and two small figures on the edge of the group 


had large paper masks drawn over their heads to represent bird-men 
with large eyes and projecting beaks. They bowed and nodded while 
the others swayed and sang and beat time on the ground with their feet. 
But the tune was more impressive than anything we could see: it was a 
direct greeting from a vanished world. One shrill voice among the 
deep male choir had an indescribably strange effect; it was the finishing 
touch to this unearthly chorus. When I grew accustomed to the light, 
I saw that it came from a very old woman, as thin as a rake. 

They were all deeply serious, and the singing went on and on till 
one of our fellows came out of a tent with a lamp. Then the chorus 
stopped abruptly, and they all murmured "no," and hid their faces in 
their hands. When the light disappeared, the song began again; one 
man started, and then all the rest joined in, the old woman last. I felt 
far away from the South Sea Islands: strangely enough there was some- 
thing to the music which reminded me of visits with the Pueblo Indians 
in New Mexico, and the archaeologists said the same. 

When the singing was over I brought a dish of sausages which the 
steward had put out in the kitchen tent, and the performers retreated 
into the darkness with the dish. We now saw that the two masked bird- 
men were little children. 

The mayor came back with the empty dish, profoundly serious, still 
wearing the wreath of ferns round his head. I laughed and compli- 
mented him on the performance, but the mayor did not move a muscle 
of his face. 

"It is a very ancient ceremony, it is the old song of the stonecutters," 
he said gravely. "They sang it to their most important god, Atua, to 
pray for good fortune in the work they were about to begin." 

There was something peculiar about the mayor that night, some- 
thing about the song and the whole way in which it was presented, 
which made me realize that this had not been done purely for our 
entertainment. Everywhere in Polynesia the inhabitants have given up 
all that is old, except when they appear in straw skirts for tourists. If 
they play and sing, it is more or less imported hula music; and if they 
tell stones, these are most often legends they have heard quoted from 
white authors' books. But there was something special about this little 


The Long-Ears' Secret 

night ceremony which was not meant for us alone. We were only acci- 
dentally involved because it was we who had asked them to make the 

I deliberately tried to joke with the mayor, but with no success. He 
took me quietly by the arm and said that in a way the ceremony had 
been "a bit serious," because it was an old song to God. 

"Our ancestors knew no better," he added. "They thought God was 
called Atua. We know better today, but we must forgive them because 
no one had taught them what we know now." 

Then he vanished into the darkness with his party on the way to 
Hotu Matua's cave in which they were to spend the night. 

Next morning we went up to the quarry in Rano Raraku. There 
we found the mayor and five of his long-ears, who had arrived early, 
going round collecting abandoned stone picks. They lay on the ledges 
literally in hundreds, on the ground, and under it, looking like gigantic 
eyeteeth with sharp points. Up on the balcony where I had slept was a 
wide gash in the cliffside, which formed a large, flat side wall not visible 
from below. Here the old-time sculptors had carved their way in. 
Through this side wall we were to proceed farther into the rock, where 
old cutting grooves still stood like huge clawmarks on its face. 

Our friends the long-ears knew from the very first exactly what 
they would have to do. They spread a supply of stone picks along the 
mountain wall where they were to begin, and each of them had a cala- 
bash of water standing beside him. The mayor hurried about with the 
previous night's wreath of ferns round his head, making sure that 
everything was ready. Then he took a series of measurements along the 
rock face, now by means of outstretched arms, now by spreading his 
fingers. He obviously knew the relative proportions from his own 
wooden figures. With a stone pick he cut marks at different places on 
the rock face. But instead of beginning he politely asked us to excuse 
him, and disappeared with all his men behind a projecting rock. 

A new ceremony was evidently in preparation, and we waited 
eagerly to see what would happen. But then they came slowly back 
with set faces, and all six drew themselves up along the wall, each 
holding his stone pick in his hand. Apparently the required ceremony 


had been held on the other side of the rock. They grasped their picks 
in their hands like daggers, and at a sign from the mayor they burst 
into the stonecutters' song of the night before, each man lifting his arm 
and striking against the rock face in time with the rhythm of the tune. 
It was fantastic to see and to hear. I missed the old woman's harmony, 
but the echoing blows of stone against the rock were a good substitute. 
It was so gripping that all of us who watched stood quite hypnotized. 

And now the singers warmed up, they smiled broadly, they sang and 
hewed, hewed and sang. One tall old man at the end of the line was 
so inspired that he danced and swayed his hips as he sang and hewed. 
Stroke followed stroke, the rock was hard; stone against stone, the little 
pick was the harder and the rock must give way. Clink-clink-clink, 
the blows of the picks must have been heard far out over the plain. 
For the first time in centuries the clink of stone was heard in Rano 

The song died away, but the strokes continued, steady and unbroken. 
Six long-ears had taken up the tools and the craft their forefathers had 
been compelled to abandon. Not much of a mark was made by each 
blow, hardly more than a gray patch of dust, but with another blow, 
and one more, and still another, something was gained. And at inter- 
vals the men grabbed the calabash and splashed water on the rock face, 
to soften it where they cut and to prevent splinters from flying in their 

So the first day passed. Wherever we went in the area, we heard 
clinking and hammering up on the cliff among the motionless giants. 
When I went to bed that night tan muscular backs and sharp picks 
cutting into rock were still before my eyes, and the blows resounded in 
my ears although all had long been quiet in the quarry. The mayor and 
his friends now lay asleep, dead tired in Hotu Matua's cave. The old 
woman had been over to get a large dish of meat and a sack full of 
bread, butter, and sugar, so the long-ears slept with full stomachs. 

Next day, and the day after, the work went on in the quarry: the 
men hewed and the sweat streamed down. On the third day the con- 
tours of the giant were clearly visible on the rock wall. The long-cars 
hacked and cut parallel depressions down the face of die rock, then 

The Long-Ears 9 Secret 

they cut across the edge left between the furrows, breaking it off into 
pieces. They cut and cut and flung on water. And continually they 
changed their picks, for the points soon blunted. 

Earlier investigators had thought that when a stone pick was worn 
out it was just thrown away, and that this explained the astonishing 
number of picks which lay about the quarry. But this proved to be 
wrong. When they dulled, the mayor grasped one after another by 
the end like a little club and struck it against another pick on the 
ground: the splinters flew through the air like sharp flakes, and he 
produced a new point as easily as a clerk sharpens a pencil. 

This taught us that the greater part of the unbroken picks in the 
quarry had been in use at the same time, but that every sculptor had 
had a series to work with, one after another. There were not many 
sculptors needed for each statue. An average figure of fifteen feet 
would take six men. That was why it had been possible to work on so 
many statues at once. A couple of hundred men were enough to keep 
work going on a considerable number. Moreover, work on many of the 
statues in the quarry had been given up on purely technical grounds 
before the general stoppage came. In some cases the sculptors had 
found a disastrous crack in the rock; in others a black stone, hard as 
flint, had defied the sculptors' tools, and the statue was left unfinished 
with a great wart on its nose or chin. 

The mayor and his men had now shown us the technique of the 
sculptors. But what interested us most was to know how long it would 
take to carve such a statue. According to Mrs. Routledge's calculations 
fifteen days were all that was needed. Metraux too thought that the 
work on the "soft stone" went more quickly than people believed, even 
if fifteen days was an underestimate. They had certainly made the 
same mistake as we ourselves and many others that of judging the 
hardness of the rock by the outer surface of a statue. None of us had 
clone what the first Spaniards did when they struck a figure with a 
pickax so deep that the sparks flew. The figures are as hard as bone 
inside the outer surface, and so is the rock where the rain has not 
reached it. 

After the third day the tempo of the long-ears* work slowed down. 

They came to me with calloused fingers and said that although they 
were wood carvers who worked with adz and chisel all day long, they 
were not trained moat men, statue sculptors; therefore they could not 
keep the tempo going week after week as their ancestors had done. 
We sat down quietly on the grass and estimated the time needed by 
the ancient stonemasons to complete a statue. Each of us made his cal- 
culations. The mayor came to the conclusion that it would take twelve 
months to complete a medium-sized statue with two teams working all 
day in shifts. The tall old man said fifteen months. Bill made an inde- 
pendent study of the rock and arrived at the same result as the mayor: 
the work on one statue would take a year, and then the problem of 
removing it would arise. 

The sculptors amused themselves by making fingers and features 
on the unfinished product, and polished the surface with pumice stone, 
left behind in the quarry by the old stonemasons. 

That evening I took little Anette on my shoulder and, with Yvonne, 
went over to the long-ears' cave on the other side of the Anakcna 
Valley. When we arrived the men were sitting, each man occupied 
with his own task, swaying their bodies rhythmically while singing a 
quiet song about Hotu Matua. This ancient and well-known song of 
Easter Island was pleasant to hear among the hula singers in the vil- 
lage, but it sounded still better in Hotu Matua's cave. Even Anette, only 
three years old, knew the tune and all the Polynesian words. She began 
to sing and dance with two little Polynesian children who came out 
of the cave. Yvonne and I crawled in and sat down on the reed mat 
where the long-ears made room for us. They were delighted at having 
visitors in their cave. 

The mayor beamed and, with hands on his stomach, thanked us 
for the good food they got from the cook daily, and especially for all 
the cigarettes; they were the best of all. He and two other men were 
sitting with little adzes carving their traditional wooden figures: one 
of them was putting eyes of white sharks' vertebrae and black obsidian 
into the grotesque head of his bearded spook. The old woman who 
looked after the men sat plaiting a hat. A black kettle stood sputtering 
on a fire outside. 

The Long-Ears' Secret 

"Don't you ever rest?" I asked the mayor. 

"We long-ears like working. We work all the time, I don't sleep 
many hours of the night, Sefior," he replied. 

"Good evening." The words came from a man we had not noticed 
because he was lying on a fern mattress up in a dark pocket of the 
cave wall. "Aren't we comfortable here?" 

I had to admit that they were. Outside it was beginning to grow 
dark, and the old woman produced a can with a dent in the bottom. In 
the dent were mutton tallow and a homemade wick, and this imitation 
of an old-fashioned stone lamp, when kindled, gave a surprisingly good 
light. A thin old man explained to us that in the days of their ancestors 
no one used a light at night for fear of being seen by the enemy. 

"The warriors had to accustom themselves to see clearly in the dark," 
the mayor added. "Nowadays we're so used to kerosene lamps that 
we're almost blind in the dark." 
One remark led to another. 

"And in those days they never slept like this." The old man lay flat 
on his back with his mouth open and his arms stretched out, and 
snored. "They slept like this." He rolled over onto his stomach and 
curled himself up into a ball, resting his chest on his knees and his 
forehead on two clenched fists, with the top of his head pointing toward 
me. He held a sharp-pointed stone in his hand. 

"Then they could spring up to meet the enemy and kill him as soon 
as they were awake," the old man muttered. And to illustrate the action, 
he suddenly shot forward like an arrow and flung himself upon me 
with a cannibalistic howl which made Yvonne utter a scream, and the 
cave resounded with laughter. 

"They didn't eat much either in those days," said the old man. "And 
they never ate hot food. They were afraid of growing fat; they always 
had to be ready to fight in the time we call Hun-moat, or the Statue- 
overthrowing time.' " 

"It's called so because then warriors threw down the statues," the 
man up on the ledge added by way of explanation. 

"Why did they, when the long-ears had already been burned?" I 


"The short-ears did it against each other," the mayor told me. "They 
owned everything then, and each family had its particular area. Those 
who had great statues on their land were proud of having them, and 
when they went to war, one family pulled down the statues on an- 
other's land just to annoy the owner. We long-ears are not so warlike. 
I've a motto, Senor Kon-Tiki : 'Take it easy/ " 

He laid his hand on my shoulder in a pacifying gesture as if to 
show his peaceful temperament. 

"How can you be so sure that you're a long-ear?" I asked cautiously. 
The mayor raised his hand in the air and began to count on his 

"Because my father Jose Abraham Atan was son of Tuputahi who 
was a long-ear because he was son of Hare Kai Hiva who was son of 
Aongatu, son of Uhi, son of Motuha, son of Pea, son of Inaki who was 
son of Ororoina, the only long-ear who was left alive after the war at 
Iko's ditch." 

"That's ten generations," I said. 

"Then I've left one out, for I'm number eleven," said the mayor, and 
he began to count on his fingers again. 

*Tm of the eleventh generation too." The words came from the man 
up on the shelf. "But I'm only a younger son. Pedro is the eldest and 
knows most, that's why he's the head of our family." 

The mayor pointed to his forehead and said with a sly smile: 
"Pedro has a head. That's why Pedro is chief of the long-ears and 
mayor of the whole island. I'm not really old, but I like to think of 
myself as a very old man." 


"Because old men are wise; they're the people who know something." 
I tried to find out a little about what had happened before the 
short-ears exterminated the long-ears and the "statue-overthrowing time" 
began. But nothing was to be learned. Their line began with Ororoina, 
and what lay behind him no one knew. The long-ears had come with 
Hotu Matua when the island was discovered: that they knew, but they 
added that the short-ears said the same of their line, just as they tried 
to claim the honor of having made the statues. But whether Hotu 


The Long-Ears' Secret 

Matua came from east or west no one remembered any longer. The man 
up on the shelf suggested that Hotu Matua had come from Austria, 
but as he got no support from the others, he soon gave way and added 
that he had heard it from someone on board a ship. They all preferred 
to talk about the "statue-overthrowing time," which to them was some- 
thing quite real. When the mayor talked of the treacherous woman 
with the basket who had betrayed the whole of his race, he became so 
furious that tears came into his eyes and he had to swallow. That story 
would live on from father to son for another eleven generations, even 
with the motto "Take it easy." 

"There were handsome people among our ancestors," said the mayor. 
"There were two kinds of people on this island: some were dark and 
some were quite fair-skinned, like you from the mainland, and with 
light hair. Real white people. But they were genuine Easter Islanders, 
quite genuine. In our family there were many of the fair type, who 
were called oho-tea, or the light-haired. My own mother and my aunt 
had much redder hair than Senora Kon-Tiki." 

"Much redder," his brother on the ledge agreed, 

"There were many of that type in our family, all the way back. We 
brothers are not like that. But my daughter who was drowned had a 
milk-white skin and completely red hair, and so has my grown-up son 
Juan. He makes the twelfth generation after Ororoina." 

This was quite correct: both of them had hair as red as the top- 
knots on the thin-lipped, long-eared statues which had adorned the 
ahus of the island in the second cultural epoch. Their race was lost at 
Poike, and the statues were pulled down, but the red hair can be traced 
from the great stone pu^ao, through living individuals described by 
the first discoverers and the first missionaries, down to some of the last 
descendants of Ororoina among the mayor's nearest relatives. 

We almost felt like fair-haired long-ears ourselves as we left Hotu 
Matua's cave and strolled home to the dark camp on the other side of 
the plain. This had been much too late for Anette. 

A few days later I was standing with the mayor looking at the 
row of fallen statues on the temple square in front of the camp. Bill 
had just reported from Vinapu that his native diggers had used a 


curious method to lift a stout block into its place in the wall. This 
raised afresh the mystery of the transportation and handling of the giant 
statues. The men had taken the simple method they had employed at 
Vinapu quite as a matter of course. Perhaps it was a trick they had 
inherited from their ancestors? Who knows? I remembered that I had 
once asked the mayor how the statues were moved from the quarry. 
The answer was the same as that given by all the others: the statues 
had walked of their own accord. I now took a chance and asked again : 
"You're a long-ear, Mayor. Don't you know how these giants were 

"Yes, Senor, I do know. There's nothing to it." 
"Nothing to it? It's one of the greatest mysteries of Easter Island!" 
"But I know it. I can raise a moai" 
"Who taught you?" 

The mayor grew solemn and drew himself up in front of me. 
"Senor, when I was a very little boy I had to sit on the floor, bolt 
upright, and my grandfather and his old brother-in-law Porotu sat on 
the floor in front of me. They taught me many things, just as in school 
nowadays. I know a lot. I had to repeat and repeat it until it was quite 
right, every single word. I learned the songs too." 

The mayor seemed so sincere that I did not know what to believe. 
He had certainly shown in the quarry that he was no mere lightweight, 
but at the same time he did have a lively imagination. 

"If you know how the statues were raised, why didn't you tell all 
the people who have been here and asked long before us?" I said skep- 

"No one asked me," the mayor answered proudly. He clearly thought 
any further explanation unnecessary. 

I did not believe him. I coolly offered to give him a hundred dollars 
on the day when the biggest statue at Anakena stood in its place up on 
the temple wall. I knew there was not a single statue standing in its 
place on its old ahu in all Easter Island, and I was sure that I would 
never sec one standing either, except the blind figures which had been 
temporarily raised down in their holes at the foot of Rano Raraku. 
"It's a deal, Senor," the mayor said quickly, and gave me his hand. 


The Long-Ears' Secret 

"If I go on a trip to Chile with the next warship, then I shall need 

I laughed and wished him luck. The mayor was a bit of an oddity 
anyway. Soon afterward the mayor's red-haired son came riding from 
the village with some notes on a scrap of paper. His father wanted me 
to talk to the governor and arrange that he and eleven other men should 
be allowed to go back to Hotu Matua's cave at Anakena to raise the 
largest statue. 

I rode over to see the governor. Both he and Father Sebastian 
laughed at the mayor and said that it was just empty brag. But Don 
Pedro, the mayor, stood before us hat in hand, with his lips quivering, 
and I held to my word. The governor gave his blessing on a piece of 

Then the mayor came with two of his brothers and a chosen party 
of relatives who were all long-ears on their mother's side, the steward 
doled out rations, and they moved into Hotu Matua's cave again. They 
were twelve men in all. 

Just before sunset the mayor came over and dug a deep round hole 
in the ground between our tents, and then he disappeared. 

When it was pitch-dark and the camp was all quiet, a queer un- 
canny music began, as the time before, but this time the curious thump- 
ing increased in strength together with the humming chorus which 
grew loud and shrill, led by the old woman's cracked voice. Lights were 
kindled all over the camp, and all the tents shone a ghostly green. But 
we all came out into the darkness without bringing our lamps, for we 
had learned the time before that the song must be sung in the dark. 

This was quite a different performance. All the men had decked 
themselves with leaves and boughs; some of them swayed and danced 
and stamped as if in an ecstasy, while the old woman, as chief singer, 
sat with closed eyes and led the choir in a shrill voice. The mayor's 
youngest brother stood down in the newly dug hole, in which we saw 
later a container had been placed with a stone slab over it. He was 
stamping rhythmically with bare feet to produce a hollow drumming 
noise which helped to create the underworld atmosphere. We could 
barely make out the ghostly group in the faint green light from the 

tent walls. But then a slender figure emerged from the dark back- 
ground, and made all our men open their eyes wide. 

She was a young girl with bare legs and long flowing hair, wearing 
a light, loose-fitting dress. She came gliding into the green circle like 
a fairy nymph, and light-footed she danced before the drummer without 
any swaying of hips or hula rhythm. It was such a pretty sight that we 
hardly dared breathe. She was so serious, a little shy, supple, slim, and 
graceful, and she seemed scarcely to touch the grass with her bare feet. 
Where did she come from? Who was she? When the sailors slowly 
realized that they were standing on solid earth, that this was not a 
dream, they began to whisper questions to one another, and to old 
Mariana and Eroria. They had thought for a long time that they knew 
every single beauty on the island. Had the long-ears kept this nymph 
hidden in a bleaching cave? We were told that she was a niece of the 
mayor's; she was so young that she had never been out to a hula party 
with the others. 

Meanwhile the singing and dancing went on, entirely fascinating. 
We heard and saw the whole performance three times. We understood 
only the refrain, which was about a moat which was to be erected at 
Kon-Tiki's command on an ahu at Anakena. The tune was quite unlike 
the stonecutters' song, but just as rhythmical. When the drummer had 
crawled up out of his hole, and all the leaf-clad dancers were preparing 
to go, they were again given food to carry off to their cave. 

One of our men asked if they could not sing and dance some of the 
ordinary hula melodies as well, but they all refused to do that. The 
mayor consented to their singing the stonecutters' song as an encore, 
but said it was not seemly to sing any other kind of music. These two 
songs were serious and would bring us good luck in our work; the 
other songs they could sing on other days, when they would not by so 
doing profane their ancestors and destroy the good luck which they 
were now seeking. So we heard the stonecutters' song again before 
they rustled off across the temple square and vanished into the dark- 
ness, the fairy nymph among them. 

Early next morning the twelve long-ears came over from the cave 
to look at the statue and the problem that confronted them. The largest 


ABOVE: A niche in the quarry with an uncompleted figure, the end view. 
The old sculptors had hewn their way into the hard rock with stone picks 
as if it were cheese. BELOW: A half-finished giant left in the mountain wall. 
The whole rock face had been cut away by small hand picks. Work in the 

ABOVE AND BELOW: A giant on a keel. Unfinished statues in the quarry 
showed that the back was the last part to be cut loose from the rock. The 
sculptors' stone hand picks lay where they had left them, evidence of what 
primitive tools they had for work on the iron-hard rock. The number 252 

ABOVE: Even high up on the mountain completed statues lay wedged with 
loose stones, waiting to be transported down the steep slopes and on to 
a destination beyond the ridges on the horizon. BELOW: An old statue from 
the island's earliest period showed his face for the first time when we set 

Alien gods, unknown even to the natives, emerged from the bosom of the 
earth as we carried on our excavations. ABOVE: This kneeling giant, sitting 
on his heels with his hands on his thighs, was unlike anything previously 
known on Easter Island. BELOW: The kneeling giant just as he was being 

The Long-Ears' Secret 

statue at Anakena was the broad fellow who lay with his nose in the 
soil just beside our tent. He was a strapping, sturdy giant, nearly ten 
feet wide across the shoulders and weighing between twenty-five and 
thirty tons. That meant more than two tons for each of the twelve men 
to lift. It was not surprising that they stood in a circle round the giant 
scratching their heads, but they seemed to have confidence in the mayor. 
He walked about and studied the colossus with perfect calm. 

Chief Engineer Olsen also scratched his neck, and shook his head 
and laughed. 

"Well, if the mayor can manage that devil, he'll be a helluva fellow." 
"He'll never do it." 
"No, never!" 

In the first place the giant lay at the foot of the wall with his head 
down a slight incline. In addition he lay with his base four yards from 
the great slab on which he had originally stood. The mayor showed us 
some nasty little stones which he said had been wedged under the 
slab by the short-ears when they upset the statue. 

Then he began to organize the work. He did it with great calm 
and as surely as if he had never done anything else. His only implements 
were three round poles, which he later reduced to two, a quantity of 
boulders, and a few big stones which the men had collected in the 
vicinity. Even though the island is treeless today, apart from a few 
newly planted clumps of eucalyptus, trees have always grown round 
the crater lake down in Rano Kao. There the first explorers found 
woods of toro miro and hibiscus, so the three wooden poles lay well 
within the scope of the permissible. 

The figure had its face buried deep in the earth, but the men got 
the tips of their poles underneath it, and while three or four men hung 
and pulled on the end of each pole, the mayor lay flat on his stomach 
and pushed small stones under the huge face. 

Occasionally we saw a faint suggestion of movement in the giant 
when the eleven men got in an extra good heave, but otherwise nothing 
happened except that the mayor lay there on his stomach grubbing 
about with stones. As the hours passed, the stones he moved out and 
shoved in became larger and larger. And when evening came the 

giant's head had been lifted a good three feet from the ground, while 
the space beneath was packed tight with stones. 

Next day one of the poles was discarded, and five men assembled 
at each of the others. The mayor set his youngest brother to push the 
stones in under the statue; he himself stood up on the ahu wall with 
arms outstretched like the conductor of an orchestra, beating the air 
in time as he shouted to the men : 

"Etahi, erua, etorul One, two, three! One, two, three! Hold on, push 
under! Once more! One, two, three! One, two, three!" 

Today they had pushed both poles under the right side of the giant. 
He tilted imperceptibly; but the imperceptible became millimeters and 
millimeters became inches, which became feet. Then the two poles 
were moved over to the left side of the giant. This was treated in the 
same way as the right, and it too tilted up slowly, while all the time 
countless stones were carefully pushed in and arranged underneath. 
After that they turned back to the right side, then to the left again, and 
the right, and the left. And the statue rose steadily, all the time lying 
in a horizontal position on a vertically growing heap of stones. 

On the ninth day the huge figure lay stretched on its stomach on 
the top of an elaborately built tower, the highest side of which was 
nearly twelve feet above the incline. It was quite uncanny to see this 
giant of nearly thirty tons lying stretched out up there, a whole man's 
height above the tops of our heads. The ten men could no longer reach 
the poles on which they hauled: they just hung dangling from ropes 
which were made fast to the ends. And still the giant had not begun 
to slant toward a standing position; we had not yet had a glimpse of 
the face of the figure, as it still lay on its stomach with the whole of 
its front hidden in the compact stone tower. 

This looked deadly dangerous. Anette was no longer allowed to 
push her doll buggy up to the statue with pebbles for the mayor. Now 
only strong men came staggering along barefoot, like Neanderthal 
men, with heavy boulders in their arms. The mayor was extremely 
careful, checking the position of every stone. The weight of the colossus 
was so great that some of the stones cracked under the pressure like 
lumps of sugar: a single carelessly placed stone could mean catastrophe. 


The Long-Ears' Secret 

But it all had been thoroughly thought out, every little move was pre- 
cisely and logically calculated. We stood with our hearts in our mouths 
as we saw the men pushing their bare toes in between the stones while 
clambering up the pile with more big blocks to be placed in position. 

Every single man was on the alert, and the mayor did not relax for 
a second. He had a grasp of the situation and did not utter an unneces- 
sary word. We had not known this side of him. In everyday life he was 
a rather tiresome buffoon, a boaster and a bore, by no means popular 
among the men in camp because of his bragging and the shameless 
prices he put on his wood carvings, though the carvings were far the 
best in the island. But now he was calm and assured, a born organizer 
and something of a practical genius. We began to see him with different 

On the tenth day the prone statue lay at its highest. Imperceptibly 
the long-ears began to jerk it, feet foremost, in the direction of the ahu 
on which it was to stand. 

On the eleventh day they began for the first time to work the giant 
into a sloping position by building the stones up even higher, but only 
under the face and chest. 

On the seventeenth day a shriveled old woman suddenly appeared 
among the long-ears. Together with the mayor she laid a semicircle of 
stones as large as eggs at a certain distance in back of the statue's base, 
on the great slab on which the giant was now beginning to fumble for 
a foothold. This was preventive magic. The statue was now leaning at 
a dangerously sharp angle and there was imminent danger of its slip- 
ping of its own weight and rolling down the steep wall of the ahu 
toward the beach. Quite apart from a slip of this kind, it could also 
capsize in any direction when it was suddenly tilted off the stone pile 
and onto its own base. Accordingly the mayor tied ropes round the 
giant's forehead, and these were made fast to stakes in the ground on 
all four sides. 

Then the eighteenth working day came. While some hauled on a 
rope from behind, down on the beach, and others held fast to another 
rope twisted round a post in the middle of the camp, the last cautious 
jerks with a wooden pole began. Suddenly the giant began to move 

quite visibly, and the orders rang out: "Hold on! hold on!" 

The giant rose in all his might and began to tilt upright, the sup- 
porting pile was left standing without a counterpoise, a rumbling and 
sliding of stones began, and great blocks came crashing down on top 
of one another in a cloud of smoke and dust. But the colossus only 
wobbled and came quietly to rest in an upright position. There it 
stood stiff and broad-shouldered, gazing out over the camp, unaffected 
by the change of scene since last it stood on the same foundation look- 
ing across the same temple square. 

The giant bulked so huge that the whole landscape was changed. 
The broad back was a landmark which could be seen far out to sea. 
We who lay in the tents at the foot of the wall and in the shadow of 
the giant's countenance no longer felt ourselves quite at home on Hotu 
Matua's old site. Wherever we went we saw the broad head close to 
us, towering over all the tent tops. When we moved about in the camp 
at night, the burly ogre seemed to come rolling forward out of the 
starry sky, ready to stride over the green tents in the darkness. 

For the first time since past centuries one of the Easter Island giants 
stood in his place on the top of an ahu. The governor with his family, 
and the priest and the nuns came over by jeep. Horses' hoofs clattered 
outside the tents; everyone who could come from the village made a 
pilgrimage to Anakena to look at the mayor's work. The long-ears 
proudly removed the heap of stones, and the mayor basked placidly in 
universal praise. He had known that he could provide the answer to 
one of Easter Island's oldest riddles. Had anyone expected anything 
less of him, Don Pedro Atan, a sage of long standing, mayor of the 
island, and senior long-ear? If only he was paid for it, he would put 
up every single statue on every single ahu in the whole island, and 
everything would be as in the good old days. What he earned now he 
would share with his friends, but if he were allowed to go to Chile 
when the next warship came, he would get the President in person to 
throw wads of notes onto the table so that all the statues could be 
raised. He had raised this giant in eighteen days with eleven helpers 
and two poles! What could he not do with more men and more time? 

I took the mayor away to a quiet spot and stood him ceremoniously 

The Long-Ears 9 Secret 

in front of me, with a hand on each of his shoulders. He stood there 
like a good little schoolboy, looking at me eagerly. 

"Don Pedro, Mayor/' I said, "now perhaps you can tell me how 
your ancestors moved the figures round about on the island." 

"They went of themselves, they walked," the mayor replied glibly. 

"Rubbish," I said, disappointed and slightly irritated. 

"Take it easy! I believe that they walked, and we must respect our 
forefathers who have said that they walked. But the forefathers who 
told me that had not seen it with their own eyes, so who knows if their 
forefathers did not use a miro manga erua?" 

"What's that?" 

The mayor drew on the ground a Y-shaped figure with crosspieces, 
and explained that it was a sledge made from a forked tree trunk. 

"At any rate they used those to drag the big blocks for the wall," 
he added by way of a concession. "And they made thick ropes from 
the tough bark of the hau-hau tree, as thick as the hawsers you have 
on board. I can make you a specimen. I can make a miro manga erua 


A few paces from the camp one of the archaeologists had just dug 
out a statue which had been completely hidden in the sand and there- 
fore had never been given any number by Father Sebastian. It had no 
eyes, and consequently had been abandoned before it had been set up 
at its destination. I pointed to it. 

"Can you draw that moai across the plain with your men?" 
"No, the other people in the village will have to help, and they won't. 
We haven't enough people, even with all your men." 

The statue was not at all large: it was if anything below medium 
size. I had an idea. The mayor helped me to get hold of two sturdy 
oxen in the village. They were slaughtered and placed by the long-ears 
between hot stones in a large earth oven. We sent out invitations to a 
great feast for the natives from the village, and soon the whole plain 
beyond the tents was swarming with people. 

The long-ears carefully dug away the sand which covered the oxen, 
and a steaming mat of juicy banana leaves came to light. When this 
inedible vegetable carpet was rolled away, the steaming, well-cooked 


carcasses appeared, and the savor of the world's juiciest beefsteak spread 
among the gay crowd. Men and women gathered in groups all over the 
grass with their hands full of large steaming pieces of meat, and the 
long-ears served heaps of newly baked sweet potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, 
and pumpkins which had all been baked along with the oxen in the 
same airtight underground oven. All round the party saddled black 
and brown horses grazed. Guitars were produced, and there was song 
and laughter and hula dancing on the temple square. 

Meanwhile the long-ears had made preparations for moving the 
blind statue, and 180 natives, sated and jubilant, took their places on 
the long rope which was made fast round the statue's neck. The mayor 
was in great form, wearing a new white shirt and striped tie. 
"One, two, three! One, two, three!" 

Pang! The rope broke, and there was wild laughter as men and 
vahines rolled over one another on the ground in chaos. The mayor 
gave an embarrassed laugh, and ordered the rope to be doubled and 
made fast to the figure. Now the giant began to move first in short 
jerks, but then suddenly it seemed to break loose. As it slid away over 
the plain, Lazarus, the mayor's assistant, jumped onto the giant's face 
and stood waving his arms and cheering like a gladiator in a triumphal 
procession, while the long lines of natives hauled patiently and yelled 
at the tops of their voices with enthusiasm. It moved as quickly as if 
they each were hauling an empty soapbox. 

We stopped the whole calvalcade a little way out on the plain. We 
had established that 180 natives with full stomachs could draw a 
twelve-ton statue across the plain, and if we had had many more people, 
we could have drawn a much larger figure. 

At last we had seen how water and stone picks could gnaw the 
statues out of the solid rock, if only one had sufficient time; we had 
seen how ropes and runners could move the giants from place to place, 
if only there were enough hands to pull; we had seen how the colossi 
could be lifted to the tops of the walls and raised on end if only one 
applied the right technique. There was only one practical mystery left : 
how was the huge topknot placed on the head of a standing figure? 
The answer had already presented itself. The stone pile which had 


The Long-Ears 9 Secret 

helped the giant onto his base could be restored as a pathway to the 
head, and the red topknot could easily be moved up its slope with the 
aid of the same simple system. When both statue and topknot were in 
their place up on the wall, all the stones were taken way. The statue 
remained there silently awaiting the future, and the mystery was not 
created until after the sculptors had died. 

An industrious and intelligent people had come to this tiny island 
with its unlimited peace. Absence of warfare, ample time, and tradi- 
tions of an old technique were all that were needed to raise the Babel 
towers of Easter Island. The island's discoverers lived for hundreds 
of years as a nation with nothing but fish and whale as their neighbors. 
Our excavations showed us that spearheads, the local weapon, were 
not made on Easter Island until the third epoch began. 

Not far from the tents lay a gigantic cylinder of red stone. It had 
been brought seven miles from the topkot quarry on the other side of 
the island. The mayor wanted to trundle it on logs for the few hundred 
yards which separated it from the camp, and then to place it on the 
head of the giant he had just set up. But at the very time when the 
long-ears were raising the giant, a new Easter Island mystery began 
to develop. It interfered with the whole of our program, and the red 
topknot was left untouched. 

We ourselves had something new to think about. 





threw long shadows on the thin, canvas wall. I turned 
down the wick till the light was barely burning and began to undress. 
Yvonne had already crept into her sleeping bag on a camp bed along 
the far wall, and Anette had long been asleep behind a low canvas 
barrier which divided her little pen from the rest of the tent. The whole 
camp was dark and silent; only the roar of the surf down on the beach 
was to be heard. Suddenly there was someone outside scraping the 
tent cloth with his fingernail, and a faint voice whispered in broken 
Spanish : 

"Senor Kon-Tiki, may I come in?" 

I pulled on my trousers again. Cautiously I moved the zipper of 
the tent flap; in the darkness I could see a dim figure with a bundle 
under his arm, and behind him the bulky silhouette of our still re- 
cumbent giant who was towering toward the starry sky. This was the 
evening of the seventh day of the long-ears' attempt to raise him. 

"May I come in?" the voice whispered again imploringly. 
I slowly opened the tent flap and pulled it aside. The figure slipped 
in and stood stooping, looking round quite enthralled. I recognized 
him: he was the junior member of the mayor's team, a so-called "mixed 
long-ear," an unusually g6od-looking lad of twenty. His name was 
Estevan Pakarati. The tent was so low that he could not stand upright, 
and I asked him to sit down on the end of my bed. 

He sat for a few moments with an embarrassed smile on his face, 
searching vainly for words. Then he clumsily pushed at me a round 
parcel wrapped in crumpled brown paper. 
"This is for you," he said. 

I unfolded the paper, and out came a hen. A stone hen. It was quite 
realistically shaped, life-size, and did not remind me of anything which 
had ever been made on Easter Island. 

Before I myself could say a word, he hastened to add: "Everyone 
in the village says that Senor Kon-Tiki has been sent to us to bring 
good luck. That is why you have given us so many things. All the 
people smoke your cigarettes and are grateful." 
"But where did you get this stone?" 

"It's a moa, a hen. My wife said I was to give it to you by way of 
thanks, because it's she who gets all the cigarettes you give me every 

Yvonne stretched out of her sleeping bag and took a length of 
cloth from a suitcase. But Estevan refused emphatically to accept the 
cloth. No, this was not a barter deal, this was a present for Seiior 

"And this is a present for your wife," I said. 
He gave way reluctantly, thanked me again for all the food and 
cigarettes, all that he and the other long-ears received every day. Then 
he left the tent and disappeared into the darkness as quietly as he had 
arrived. He was going to the village for the night. But before he left 
he begged me to hide the hen so that no one would see it. 

I looked at the well-made hen again. It was a masterly piece of work. 
Queer, but for some reason the heasmelled a little of smoke. I was rather 
puzzled by this piece of sculpture which I could not place within the 

Superstition against Superstition 

local pattern at all. This was the first time I had seen an Easter Island 
art object which was not a mere repetition of the standardized wooden 
figures, or a copy of the large statues or other well-known local forms. 
I put the remarkable stone hen away under my bed and blew out the 

Next evening, when all was quiet, the whispering voice was there 
again. What did he want now? Tonight he had a new stone with him, 
this time a crouching man with a long bird's bill, holding an egg in one 
hand. The figure was carved in high relief on a flat stone and was a 
variation of the sculptures in the rock at the bird-men's ruined village 
of Orongo. It was a beautiful piece of work. His wife had sent the fig- 
ure as a present because she had received the cloth from us. It had been 
carved by her father, Estevan said, but we must not show it to anyone. 
We sent him off again with a gift for his wife. 

When I was putting the new stone away, I noticed that it too smelled 
very strong of acrid smoke; it was still rather damp and had been 
thoroughly scrubbed with sand. Something strange was going on. But 
what ? 

All next day I puzzled over these stones which smelled so peculiar 
and were so unusually well made. At last I could restrain myself no 
longer. Late in the afternoon I called the mayor into my tent and rolled 
down the walls outside the mosquito net. 

"I want to ask you something, but you must promise absolutely not 
to say a word to anyone/' 

The mayor, his eyes dancing with curiosity, promised to say nothing. 
"What do you think of these?" I asked, pulling the two stones out of 
a suitcase. 

The mayor started back as if he had burned his fingers; his eyes 
stood out of his head as if he were looking at an evil spirit or into the 
muzzle of a gun, and he turned quite pale. 

"Where did you get those? Where did you get those?" he whispered 
"I can't tell you, but what do you say to them?" 

The mayor still sat staring, drawn back against the tent wall. 
"There's no one on the island but myself who can make figures like 


those," he said, looking as if he suddenly stood face to face with his 
own soul. As he sat staring at the figures something seemed to dawn on 
him. He took a closer look, and I felt he was becoming convinced of 
something which was still beyond me. Then he turned quietly to me 
and said : 

"Pack up both stones and get them on board the ship so that no one 
on the island can see them. If you're given any more, just accept them 
and hide them on board, even if they look new." 

"But what are they?" 

"They're serious things; they're family stones." 
The mayor's odd behavior did not make me much wiser, but I real- 
ized that I had involuntarily started to play with fire. Estevan's father- 
in-law must be engaged in some queer business. I was determined to 
find out what was really going on. 

The next time Estevan came creeping into my tent, I made him sit 
down on the edge of the bed and tried to engage him in conversation. 
But he was too excited to listen to me. He had three stones in a sack, 
and when he rolled them out onto the sleeping bag, I too became 

One stone depicted three curious and highly artistic heads with 
mustaches and long beards, and the heads were carved in a ring around 
the stone so that the beard of one imperceptibly blended with the hair 
of the next; the second stone was a club with eyes and mouth. The third 
was a man standing with a large rat hanging from his clenched teeth. 
This was not only a motif and style of art alien to Easter Island; I had 
never seen anything like it from any part of the globe. I did not believe 
for a moment that Estevan's father-in-law had made these stones. There 
was something grim, almost heathenish about them, and this was re- 
flected in the way the lad looked at them and handled them. 

"Why has the man a rat in his mouth?" I asked. I could not think of 
a more sensible question on the spur of the moment. 

Estevan drew a little nearer and told me in a hushed voice that it 
was a mourning custom of his ancestors. When a man lost a wife or 
one of his children, anyone he was fond of, he had to catch a tyoe, a 
native rat of the edible kind that lived on the island before the ship's 

Superstition against Superstition 

rats came. Then he had to run all round the coast of the island without 
resting, with the rat in his mouth, and kill all the people who placed 
themselves in his path. 

"This was how a warrior showed his grief," Estevan explained, with 
ill-concealed admiration in his voice. 

"Who made the mourning man?" 

"My wife's grandfather." 

"It was her father who made the others?" 

"I'm not sure. Her father made some and her grandfather others. She 
has seen her father making them." 

"Is her father working for me?" 

"No, he is dead. These are holy, serious stones." 
This was becoming more and more puzzling. Again he repeated that 
the villagers said that I had been sent to the island by supernatural 
powers. The whole thing seemed completely nonsensical. 

"But where have you and your wife kept these stones since her father 
died? In the house?" 

He shifted a little where he sat, and then he said: "No, in a cave, a 
family cave." 
I said nothing. 

Then he confided that the cave was full of such things. But no one 
could find it; only his wife knew where the entrance was. She was the 
only person who could get in. He himself had never seen the cave. But 
he knew roughly where it was, for he had waited nearby while his wife 
went in for the stones. She had told him that the cave was quite full. 
Now Estevan and I shared a secret. The next night it was easier 
to talk. He told me that his wife had scrubbed the stones with sand and 
water before she sent them to me; she was afraid some native might 
see them and realize that she was taking old things from a family cave. 
The smell he thought came from the cave, until it occurred to him that 
the stones had been dried over the kitchen fire after being washed. He 
would get this washing stopped, since I wished it. His wife had asked 
if there was anything special I wanted from the cave. But it was not 
easy for me to know what to ask for, when not even Estevan could tell 
me what was there. All I knew for certain was that ethnographic art 


treasures of incalculable value had begun to emerge from a hiding place 
on the island. 

Estevan proposed in a whisper that he try to persuade his wife to take 
me into the cave with her. Then I myself could choose the stones I liked 
best, for there were such quantities that it was quite impossible to bring 
them all to me. But the worst problem, he explained, would be that his 
wife was strong-willed and hard in this matter, as hard as stone. He 
himself had never been allowed to go into the cave. But if she said yes, 
we must steal into the village in the middle of the night, for the cave 
was not far from his house, in the middle of the village area. 

Estevan's visits occurred during the time when the mayor and the 
other long-ears were living in Hotu Matua's cave and working to raise 
the giant statue. It could have been a simple matter for the mayor to 
notice which of his men disappeared at night, or he may have spied 
Estevan entering my tent. At any rate he took me aside one day and 
confided, with a knowing look, that Estevan's father-in-law had been a 
good friend of his till his death many years ago. He was the last man 
on the island who had made "serious" stones, the mayor added, stones 
which they kept for themselves, and which were not for sale. 
"What did they use the stones for then?" I asked. 
"They brought them out and showed them at feasts; they took them 
along to the dances." 

Nothing more was to be got out of the mayor on that subject. 
I had another meeting with Estevan afterward, and that night he 
brought several stones from the cave. But then his nocturnal visits 
suddenly ceased. At last I sent for him. When he came into the tent he 
appeared crestfallen. His wife had discovered that the two spirits who 
guarded her cave were angry at her for having taken so much out, so 
Estevan had nothing more to bring me from her cave. And now his 
wife flatly refused to take me with her into the cave. He himself was 
willing to do anything in the world for me, but she could not be per- 
suaded. She was so hard, the lad repeated, as hard as stone. It was 
just for that reason, he added, that her father had chosen her to inherit 
the secret of the family cave. 

During the period in which Estevan was paying his nightly visits, 

Superstition against Superstition 

a great deal else was happening on the island. The archaeologists were 
continually making new and surprising finds, and the natives began to 
display more and more superstition. On the top of Rano Kao Ed had 
discovered the walls of a hitherto unknown temple which he was now 
excavating with the help of a native team. One day when I was visiting 
him, two of the natives came straight out with their latest gossip. 

"Confess that you are one of our family who left Easter Island many 
generations ago," one of them said. 
"We know it. You may just as well tell the truth," added the other. 

I laughed and told them that I was a genuine Norwegian and had 
come from the other side of the globe. But the men would not give in : 
they had unmasked me, so why could I not admit it ? They had heard 
the legend of a man who had left the island in ancient times and never 
came back. Besides, if I had never been on the island before, how could 
I have gone straight to Anakena and set up my camp exactly where 
Hotu Matua had settled when he first landed? 

I tried to laugh the whole thing off, but my denials were of no use. 

On the same day Arne got the natives to turn over a large square 
block of stone close to the path in Rano Raraku. He thought it looked 
rather queer. Everyone knew that stone, and most of the natives must 
have sat on it. But it had never been turned over till now, and to every- 
one's astonishment what appeared was an absolutely strange head with 
thick lips, a flat nose, and large pouches under the eyes. The large 
square face had nothing in common with the known style of art of 
Easter Island: again something new had turned up, something that be- 
wildered the natives. Who had given Senor Arne a tip that it was worth 
while to turn that particular stone over? Again Arne was told by his 
workmen that, they knew it : Senor Kon-Tiki was in contact with the 

Then one evening Yvonne and I were over in Hotu Matua's cave 
with the mayor and his long-ears. They were lying there regaling them- 
selves with thick slices of bread spread with butter and jam, and the 
coffeepot was simmering outside. 

"We only get sweet potatoes and fish at home," said the mayor, pat- 
ting his stomach with pleasure. 


The can with the wick in it was lighted, and again the talk was of 
old days, of the time when a king named Tuu-ko-ihu had discovered 
two sleeping ghosts at the foot of the red cliff down in the topknot 
quarry. Both ghosts were long-ears, with pendulant lobes down to their 
necks; they had beards and long hooked noses, and were so thin that 
the ribs stood out from their breasts. The king hastened home to carve 
their portrait in wood before he forgot what they looked like. This was 
the origin of the moai-fova-fova, the weird figure which always recurs 
without variation in the wood carving of Easter Island. No sooner had 
the men finished their meal than they produced their chunks of wood 
and began to work on their moai-l(ava-\avas 9 and their tangata mantis, 
or bird-men, while some of the older ones told stories. 

Flickering shadows danced round us on the uneven walls of the 
cave and this opened the door to ghost stories which might well have 
made the hair of anyone stand on end. We heard of cannibal ghosts 
which came at night to demand intestines; of a female ghost which re- 
sided in the sea and with an immensely long arm drew lone people to 
her from the cliffs; and of others which went about pushing folk into 
the sea. Lazarus, the mayor's assistant, said his grandmother had been 
pushed down a precipice by a malicious ghost. There were also many 
spirits which were friendly and helped certain people; most of these 
were friendly to one particular family only, and hostile to everyone else. 
Such spirits of all kinds were referred to by the natives as a\u-akus. 

One ghost story followed another till they all suddenly recalled 
something which had happened that very day. 

"You were present yourself," one of them said to me, "and you did 
not look a bit surprised." Then they explained. 

Although their ancestors had supernatural help when they moved the 
statues about on the island, when they erected them they had had to toil 
with poles and stones; perhaps supernaturals had been present then too, 
and done part of the work, for today they had all seen something they 
had never experienced before. An invisible akj4-a\u had helped them in 
raising the statue. They had had luck because of their singing. 

They showed us, with a little figure and two sticks, how they had 
been working to push up one side of the statue, when suddenly the 


A bird-man figure, which the natives called a tangata manu, and a long* 
eared ghost-man known as a moai\ava\ava. 

giant's head had risen several inches by itself, without anyone having 
touched it. 

"Very strange! It was very strange/' the man up on the ledge assured 

At this time Thor Junior was working as assistant to Ed at Orongo, 
on the rim of the volcano Rano Kao. The ruins up there were to be 
mapped. Ed and Bill were staying as guests in the governor's bungalow 
at the foot of the volcano, and the governor's wife, who always showed 
us boundless hospitality, invited Thor also to stay in the house, as the 
camp was too far away. But Thor had a boy's longing for adventure; 
he wanted to stay in the bird-men's village on the top of the cliff. Sev- 
eral of the ancient stone huts were in a habitable state, and even if the 
floor was hard and the roof low, he would have shelter in all kinds of 
weather and a view the like of which could not be found in all the 
kingdoms of the world. 

The whole Hangaroa Village and a part of the island lay spread out 
at his feet, and beyond, the Pacific stretched to the vault of heaven. The 
bird-men's partly subterranean stone huts lay closely packed side by side 
next to some curiously sculptured outcrops on the topmost knifelike 
edge of the volcano. Right in front of their very doorstep the vertical 
cliff flung itself sheer for a thousand feet down into the sea where the 
bird-men's islands lay. A few steps in the opposite direction an almost 
equally giddy drop fell into the gigantic crater which spread a mile 
wide from edge to edge, and at the bottom lay a dangerous green bog 
speckled here and there with little open pools. 

When Thor went up there with sleeping bag and provisions, the 
natives became panic-stricken. They begged him to come down for the 
night; they went to Ed and asked him to order the boy down. I myself 
received a message at Anakena saying that the boy must not sleep 
alone in the ruins of Orongo he would be taken by an afa-afa. But 
warnings were of no avail. Thor had found the castle of his dreams: he 
would camp alone at Orongo. 

At the end of the day, Thor remained on the top while the others 
came down. Ed's native foreman was so troubled that finally he sent up 
three volunteers to keep Thor company during the night. When the 


Superstition against Superstition 

sun set, and the trade wind roared in the dark abysses, Thor had his 
first fright. Three shadows came marching into the ruins three native 
girls sent to spend the night there. The girls were terrified at being up 
in the ruins in the dark: one of them was almost crazy with fear. The 
echo down in the black crater was surely an a\u-a\u. She saw another 
in a star mirrored in a black pool at the bottom of the crater. There were 
a{u-af(us everywhere. When daylight came the three girls were only too 
glad to hurry down to the village again. 

On the following nights Thor stayed up on the rim alone. He was 
sitting there every morning happily admiring the sunrise when Ed and 
his native workmen came climbing up from the valley. This courage 
quickly made him a hero in the eyes of the natives, and they deluged 
him daily with melons, pineapples, and baked fowls. Accordingly Thor 
could not be persuaded to come down from the clifftop. He lived up 
there four months, and the a/(u-a/(us left him in peace. The natives 
knew why: Kon-Tiki-iti-iti was quite safe up in Orongo alone, he had 
a protecting power on his side. 

This was not the end of superstitition, however: quite the contrary. 

The next native to approach me was Lazarus, just when I was 
worming the first secrets of the family cave out of young Estevan. Laz- 
arus was the mayor's right-hand man and, according to both, one of the 
most important persons on the island. He was one of the natives' three 
elected representatives and, the mayor said, an extremely wealthy per- 
son. The blood of long-ears as well as short-ears flowed in Lazarus' 
veins, with a slight infusion from casual European visitors. He was a 
physical masterpiece, yet Darwin might have appropriated his features 
to support the theory of evolution. But despite the low sloping forehead 
with projecting brows, the equally protruding lower face with a small 
chin, large lips with a perfect row of teeth between them, a thick nose, 
and an animal's watchful eyes, Lazarus was no stupid ape. On the con- 
trary, he was unusually alert, and he had a keen sense of humor. How- 
ever, he too was highly superstitious. 

One day a report came from Ed that he had found several rock carv- 
ings of an unknown type on a large slab in the roof of a ruined house 
in Orongo. At about the same time Arne had found the kneeling statue 

buried in the earth at the foot of Rano Raraku. Late in the afternoon, 
when the long-ears had ceased work for the day, Lazarus took me aside 
with an air of secrecy. 

"The only thing you need now is a rongo-rongo" he said, slyly study- 
ing my face to see the effect of his words. 

At once I realized that something special was brewing, and I pre- 
tended to be casual. 

"There are none left on the island today," I remarked. 
"Yes, there are some," Lazarus said cautiously. 
"But they're rotten and will crumble away if you touch them." 
"No, my cousin has touched two." 

I did not believe him. He saw it, and asked me to come with him 
behind the temple wall where the statue was lying on its stone pile. 
Here he told me in a whisper that he had twin cousins, Daniel and Al- 
berto Ika. Alberto had been born an hour after Daniel, yet it was he 
who had been chosen to inherit the secret of the entrance to their family 
cave, which was full of curious things, even some rongo-rongo. 

Two years ago Alberto had been in the cave and brought out two 
rongo-rongo, which he had taken home. They were of wood, and one 
of them was shaped like a flat fish with a tail. Both were covered with 
small figures; they were almost black and extremely hard, though they 
were very old. Lazarus and many others had seen them. But Alberto had 
broken the taboo by taking the tablets away from the cave, and in the 
night while he was asleep an afo-afa had come and poked and pinched 
him till he awoke. Then he had looked out of the window and seen 
thousands of tiny little men about to climb into his room. He was almost 
crazy with fear, and had gone straight back to the cave and put both the 
tablets back in their places. This rongo-rongo cave was somewhere near 
the Hanga-o-Teo Valley, and Lazarus would do everything in his power 
to make his cousin summon up courage to go in and fetch the tablets 

I gradually extracted from Lazarus the information that his family 
had more than one cave. Lazarus himself had access to another cave 
which was also near the Hanga-o-Teo Valley; there were no rongo- 
rongos there, but many other things. I tried to get Lazarus to take me 


Superstition against Superstition 

with him to this cave, but here his co-operation ended. He looked at me 
with a magisterial eye and declared that it would be the end of both 
him and me. The family a\u-a^u lived in the cave, and there were also 
the skeletons of two of his ancestors. If an unauthorized person tried to 
enter, the a{u-a{u would take a fearful revenge. The entrance to the 
cave was the most sacred of all secrets. I tried to laugh at the idea of 
aku-al(us and make him, as an intelligent fellow, see reason, but it was 
like talking to a wall. I got nowhere. 

After persistent efforts I did secure a promise from Lazarus that he 
himself would try to bring me something from the cave. But what 
would I like to have? A bird-man with or without an egg? The cave 
contained every possible thing except rongo-rongo. I proposed that he 
should bring several different things, so that I could see for myself and 
be able to choose. But this was no good. The cave was full of strange 
things, and he could only risk bringing one single item. Here the con- 
versation was interrupted by a message for me, and Lazarus said good- 
by and was gone in a twinkling. 

Next day I was out watching the long-ears carrying stones to the 
pile they were building under the statue, when the mayor and Lazarus 
came up for a chat. 

u You realize the a^tt-aJ^ti is helping," the mayor said in a low voice. 
"It would have been impossible for the twelve of us to manage this alone 
without supernatural help." 

They told me how they had baked a fowl that day, in an earth oven 
near the cave, to make the statue rise more quickly. 

I met a flood of protests from Lazarus and the mayor when I scoffed 
at their superstition. They looked at me as if I was an idiot when I 
maintained that there were no afa-afas. Of course there were. In old 
days the whole island was full of them. There were not so many now, 
but they could patter off the names of many places on the island where 
a\u-a\us of both sexes still lived. People who had talked with them 
declared that they had a peculiar piping voice, and there were no end 
of proofs of their existence. 

I could not get in a word. I could as easily have persuaded them that 
there were no fish in the sea or chicken in the village. It was apparent 


that the islanders were bound to some lunatic form of superstition, and 
this acted as an immovable barrier to caves with contents hitherto un- 
known to the outside world. 

I drove in to see Father Sebastian. No living person knew Easter 
Island and its natives as well as he. I knew too that what I told him 
would remain a confidence between us two. In his book about the island 
I had found the following passage: 

"There were also secret caves which were the property of particular 
families, and only the most important persons in a family knew the en- 
trance to their respective secret caves. These served as hiding places for 
valuable things, such as inscribed tablets, rongo-rongo, or statuettes. The 
secret of the exact situation of the entrance is buried in the graves with 
the last survivors from the old times. . . ." 

I told Father Sebastian that I had reason to believe that secret family 
caves were still in use on the island. He started back in astonishment 
and tugged at his beard. 
U 0h, no!" 

I told him, without mentioning names, of the mysterious stones I 
had obtained. He was soon ablaze with excitement and wanted to hear 
where the cave was. I could only tell him the little I knew, and that it 
was impossible for me to get to the cave because of the crazy ghost 

Father Sebastian had been walking briskly up and down the room. 
He stopped abruptly and clasped his head in despair. 

"They are hopelessly superstitious," he said. "Old Mariana came to 
me the other day and declared quite seriously that you were not a hu- 
man being. Their superstition is so ingrained that it is no good expect- 
ing to get it all out of their heads in one generation. They have an 
immense respect for their ancestors, and that of course one can under- 
stand. Yet they are good Christians. But oh, their superstition!" 

He told me quite resignedly that he had not yet been able to relieve 
his admirable housekeeper Eroria of the belief that she was descended 
from a whale which had been stranded in Hotuiti Bay. Eroria only 
replied that he could not possibly know anything about it, even if he was 
a priest, for she had heard it from her father, who had been told it by 


Superstition against Superstition 

his father, who had it from his father, and he was the one who ought 
to know best, for it was he who had been the whale! 

We agreed that I had a hard nut to crack : it would not be easy to 
get the natives to accompany me to places where they thought devils 
and evil spirits barred the way. Father Sebastian proposed to lend me 
some holy water; the natives have a great respect for it, and perhaps 
they might summon courage if we sprinkled it at the entrance to the 
cave. However, we agreed that Father Sebastian must not come into the 
picture openly. He said himself that he was the last person to whom 
they would come with secrets of this kind. But we must keep in regular 
contact at all costs; I must come to him even in the middle of the night 
if I should obtain access to a secret cave. 

The insane superstition of the intelligent people of Easter Island was 
hard to understand until I began to draw parallels with our own fa- 
miliar world. I have heard of twenty-story buildings which have no 
thirteenth floor, and of airplanes in which the numbers of the seats 
jump from twelve to fourteen. Are there people who believe that an evil 
spirit watches over the number thirteen a nameless spirit of disaster? 
All that is wanting to complete the parallel is that we should call it an 
evil afa-afa. 

I have also heard of people who are afraid of spilling salt, of break- 
ing a mirror, or who believe that a black cat crossing the road may 
affect your future. These people believe in an a\u-a\u, only they do not 
use the name. Is it then so strange that natives of the world's most deso- 
late island suspect their ancestors of wizardry and of walking as ghosts 
among their giant portraits, which our own race openly calls a mystery ? 
Is there not more excuse for imagining an a\u-a\u among skulls and 
skeletons in the dark caves of Easter Island than in the skin of a friendly 
black cat strolling contentedly across the road on a sunny summer day? 

Superstition on Easter Island has been ingrained in the people for 
generations. I had not taken this into account, nor had anyone else done 
so before me. This oversight had been a major omission which had so 
far prevented all access to the real mind of the natives. It was no use 
trying to quench the flames of superstition with reason. All sensible 
arguments were received like water on a duck's back. Nor can a real 

forest fire be put out with water: one must start a counterfire. Fire is 
fire's worst enemy provided it is kept under control. 

The natives had inherited from their own parents their belief in evil 
spirits which reside all over the island. There were certain areas where 
some of the natives never dared go, least of all at night. The mayor and 
Lazarus confided to me gloomily that superstition was a real menace 
to the island. 

I racked my brain over the problem, and came to the conclusion that 
superstition might be superstition's deadliest enemy, if kindled as a 
counterfire. Those who believed that I was in contact with their ances- 
tors ought to accept as well a message passed on from the same source, 
a message advising them to abolish all the old and dreaded curses and 
taboos. Why not? I lay and tossed about in my sleeping bag all night. 
Yvonne thought it was a crazy plan, but agreed anyway that it ought 
to be tried. 

Next day the mayor, Lazarus, and I had a long meeting up in the 
rocks behind our camp. It was incredible what I was to learn once I 
began to chat with them. I told them first what was quite true that 
I knew very well the secret of the taboo, and that I myself was the first 
who had paddled a canoe in the taboo waters of Vai Po, in an accursed 
underground cave on Fatu Hiva. There too, without any evil conse- 
quences, I had been down in the secret vault of a taboo pae-pae or house 
platform. The mayor and Lazarus listened with eyes wide open : they 
did not know that there were other islands besides their own which had 
taboos. I knew enough about the taboo system to impress both of them 
beyond limits, not least because I could quote stories I myself had heard 
from natives of Fatu Hiva, describing disasters of the strangest sorts 
which had overtaken various people who had infringed their fore- 
fathers' taboo. 

The mayor became pale and shuddered. Then he laughed, slightly 
ashamed, and confessed that whenever he heard stories of this kind he 
shivered with cold, even in the baking-hot sun. For Easter Islanders 
had had exactly, just exactly, the same experience of the taboo too. And 
now I was the one who had to listen quietly to the local examples of the 
dire effect of the taboo of a whole family who had become lepers, of 


An "old navigator" with a ship on his chest. A three-masted sailing vessel 
appeared when Arnc uncovered the chest of one of the giants. The line on 
the right leads down to a turtle on the statue's stomach. 

ABOVE: Fish bite in the Pacific for those who have the knack, and a good 
fisherman need never go hungry. BELOW: Bill shows off the headless red 
pillar statue at Vinapu, and Ed a stone head found when he excavated the 

Exploration underground. Both on Easter Island and on Rapa hi we found 
old shelters and burial caves running far into the rock as long tunnels 
and large rooms. The skipper carries the light for Carl, the South Seas girl 
and mvsHf *s we return from a swim in a subterranean lake sur- 

ABOVE: The night bctore the long-ears were to commence work on a statue, 
they decked themselves in leaf crowns and gathered in the darkness out- 
side our tents to sing the ancient stonecutters' working song. BELOW: For 
the first time in hundreds of years a statue is being made in the old quarry. 

Superstition against Superstition 

a shark which had bitten off an arm, of a fearful flood which had 
drowned all the people in a reed house, and of many who had gone 
mad because the al(u-a\u had poked and punched them night after 
night, all because various attempts had been made to break the taboos of 
family caves. 

"What happened to you on Fatu Hiva?" Lazarus asked, morbidly 

"Nothing," I said. 
Lazarus looked almost disappointed. 

"That's because you've got mana," he said. Mana is our term for a 
kind of magical quality, a source of supernatural strength. 

"Senor Kon-Tiki has not only mana" the mayor said slyly to Laz- 
arus, "he has an afa-a{u which brings good fortune." 
I grasped this straw. 

"So I can quite well go into a taboo cave without anything happen- 
ing," I declared. 

"Nothing will happen to you, but something will happen to us if we 
show you the cave," said Lazarus, pointing to himself and nodding with 
a wry grin. 

"Not when I am with you. My a^ii-a\it is too strong for that," I tried 
to argue. 

But Lazarus found this hard to digest. His family atyt-atyi would 
take vengeance on him; my ab(ii-a\u could not prevent that, even if it 
protected me. And I could never in all my life find the opening by my- 
self, even if I stood as near to it as I was to him now. 

"Lazarus belongs to a very important family," the mayor boasted on 
his friend's behalf. "His family has many caves. They are rich." 
Lazarus spat proudly. 

"But I too have mana" the mayor declared, and went on to boast of 
his own supernatural power. "It's my a{u-afo which helps us to lift 
the statue. I have three afo-afos inside a small ahit in La Perouse Bay. 
One is the figure of a bird." 

Now we all knew that we were three important persons sitting 
together up among the rocks. The two others began to vie over who 
knew the most about the sources of "good luck" and "bad luck." And I 


found out that quite unknowingly I had passed a test that very day. 
The mayor told me that he had been looking on when I was tying a 
knot in the guy rope of the tent, and this had confirmed his suspicion 
that I knew the secrets of "good luck," for I had tied the knot from the 
right and not from the left. 

With this concession as a bridgehead I delivered my final argument. 
I said that I knew their family caves had been declared taboo by their 
ancestors only to protect the valuable contents. The only thing that 
brought "bad luck" was to trade the figures from the cave to visitors 
and sailors who might not realize what they were and after a time might 
throw them away. But it brought "good luck" to trade the same figures 
with men of science who would preserve them in a museum. A mu- 
seum was somewhat like a church, a place where people could only 
walk about quietly and look at the figures behind glass cases, a protected 
spot where no one could break them or throw them away. The evil 
spirits would depart from the caves together with the figures, and so 
there would be nothing more to be afraid of on the island. 

I thought I detected that this speech made a special impression on 
Lazarus, and I was not wrong. That night there was again someone 
whispering "Kon-Tiki," and scraping the wall of the tent. It was not 
Estevan this time, but Lazarus. He gave me a sack containing an old 
flat stone head with the most peculiar features and a long thin mustache. 
There were spider webs in the holes, and the head had neither been 
washed nor scrubbed with sand, 

I learned a good deal about the cave Lazarus had been in. It was full 
of sculptures: he had seen a stone bowl with three heads, strange 
animals and human beings, and models of ships. This cave near 
Hanga-o-Teo had been inherited from his great-grandfather, and he 
owned it together with his three sisters. Now that no "bad luck" had 
befallen him, he was going to talk to his two oldest sisters, to get 
permission to bring more things from the cave. There was no need for 
him to say anything to his younger sister; she was only twenty and did 
not understand such matters. 

Lazarus felt himself a hero now that he had been in the cave. His 
family had four caves. The rongo-rongo cave where his cousin Alberto 


Superstition against Superstition 

had been was supposed to be near the one from which he had just come, 
but only Alberto knew the entrance. Then there was one in the cliffs at 
Vinapu: Lazarus knew that one and would go there another night. The 
fourth cave was right in the vertical rock face of the statues' mountain 
Rano Raraku. Three different families each had their own section in 
this important cave. It was full of skeletons, and he would never dare 
set foot in it; nor did he know the entrance. 

I asked whether, if three families knew the entrance to the same 
cave, they ever stole from one another. Oh no, he said, that presented no 
problem. Each family owned its own well-defined section, and had its 
own aJ{ii-aJ{u there to look after it. 

Lazarus received dress material for his two older sisters and disap- 
peared into the night. 

Next day the mayor stood as calm as ever in his place on the ahu 
wall, directing his long-ears as they hung and swung at the end of their 
lofty poles. The day before he had not betrayed by one gesture that he 
too had a cave. All that he had boasted of was his own helpful a{u-a{u 
and three small colleagues in the spirit world who lived in an ahu in 
La Perouse Bay. I watched him standing there cool and confident, or- 
ganizing the work like a trained engineer. It would be strange if Laz- 
arus' family had four caves, and the chief of the long-ears himself had 
not a single one. But stronger medicine was required to make the mayor 

Later in the day I saw a chance of getting the two men aside once 
more. I had no idea whether the mayor had a cave, but at any rate he 
must know a good deal about their existence on the island. I asked in 
the course of conversation if many families had secret caves. The mayor 
admitted that there were some who had, but said that hardly anyone 
got to know anything about other people's caves. Usually only one 
member of the family at a time had the whole responsibility of knowing 
the entrance. Sometimes this person died before a successor had been 
initiated into the secret, and the system was so ingenious that no one 
could ever find the opening again. A great number of family caves had 
been lost in this way, and both the mayor and Lazarus stressed that 
such a loss brought "bad luck." 


"That is just what ought to be stopped," I put in. "That is why the 
things ought to be moved to a safe museum, where no one can steal 
them and where they cannot be lost. A watchman is always there to 
look after them." 

The mayor reflected a little. He did not feel quite convinced. Those 
who had made the things had said that they were to be hidden in secret 
caves, not kept in houses. 

"That was because the reed huts of their day were not safe," I ex- 
plained. "The caves were the safest places they had, but they are not 
really safe since everything is lost whenever the entrance is forgotten. 
There's no danger of anyone forgetting the location of a museum 

The mayor did not entirely accept my way of reasoning. His fore- 
fathers' commandments had more power than all the mana he attrib- 
uted to me. After all, he had both mana and a{u-al(ii himself, and he 
had not seen any sign of his forefathers having changed their view on 
the taboos. 

I was stuck. Even Lazarus seemed to waver. There must be some 
way to show the superstitious mayor an impressive sign which would 
convince him that his forefathers had now abolished their deadly taboo. 
I decided to carry out a crazy plan. 

At the foot of the plain and right next to the camp lay an ahu with 
fallen statues. The original wall had been sadly damaged during the 
rebuilding period of the second epoch : the work had never been com- 
pleted. Later, destructive hands had been at work : blocks and boulders 
in great numbers lay strewn about in front of the facade. Bill had been 
over one Sunday to look at the damaged wall, and as he was brushing 
the sand away from a slab he saw something which he thought was a 
whale's nose cut in relief on the stone. A large block lay on top of the 
stone and covered the rest of the figure. Before riding back to Vinapu 
Bill mentioned it to me. The photographer and I went over to the heap 
of stones and searched till we found what Bill had seen, and when we 
removed the block over it, a figure clearly representing a whale about 
three feet long came to light. The slab slipped from us and rolled down 
onto the sand below us. It now lay with the shapeless back of the stone 


Superstition against Superstition 

upward, looking like all the other rocks which were strewn about in 
the area. 

This gave me an idea. No one had noticed what we had done. I 
would ask the mayor and Lazarus to come to the camp about midnight 
when everything was dark and quiet. We would then hold a magical 
seance and get their ancestors to send a work of art made by them up 
out of the earth as a sign that they were no longer afraid to have their 
old secrets disclosed. The days of taboo would be over. 

The mayor and Lazarus were eager for the meeting, and when it 
was dark they came stealing into the camp. Just before they arrived, 
Estevan had left my tent after his last visit. Yvonne was frightened at 
the thought of what might happen, and was lying wide-awake, listen- 
ing. Everyone else was asleep. I explained to the two men that we must 
stand in a line and hold onto each other's shoulders, and then walk 
slowly in a wide ring. Next morning we should find within that ring 
something which their forefathers themselves had made and laid there 
as a sign that I was right in saying that no one would any longer be 
punished by a/(u-at(iis for breaking old taboos. 

So off we went, I myself ahead with my arms crossed, then the 
mayor with his hands on my shoulders, and Lazarus behind him. I 
could not see at all where I was putting my feet, and was so convulsed 
with suppressed laughter that I nearly stumbled over every stone. But 
the two I had in tow were so solemn and so absorbed by the ceremony 
that they might have been following me on a leash. When the circle 
was completed and we stood before my tent again, we bowed deeply to 
one another without exchanging a word, and each of us went quietly 
to his own sleeping quarters. 

The mayor was on the spot as soon as daylight broke, and told me 
of two mysterious lights which had appeared outside Hotu Matua's cave 
in the night. They did not come from the jeep, so they were certainly 
some sign of "good luck." As soon as the day's program had been organ- 
ized for the rest of the expedition, I asked the mayor and Lazarus to 
bring the best and most honorable man they had to help us search inside 
the ring we had made the night before. The mayor promptly chose his 
youngest brother Atan Atan, a little fellow with a mustache and large 


A fa- A fa 

innocent eyes, who himself naively assured me that the choice was well 
made: he was a good fellow with a heart of gold, and if I did not believe 
him I could ask anyone in the village. We took Atan over to the heap 
of stones and began to search. I asked them to turn over every single 
stone which lay strewn over the sandy ground, to see if one of them 
was a work of art made by their ancestors. To make it more dramatic I 
started them at the opposite side of the circle, so as not to find the 
whale immediately. 

Atan happened to be the first to find something a curious red stone 
object. Then I myself found an old stone file and a pretty little obsidian 
adz. Soon after we heard a shout from Atan, who had turned up a large 
slab and brushed away the sand from its underside. The mayor, Lazarus, 
and I rushed up: on the slab was a beautiful relief figure of a whale. 
But it was a different whale from the one I had turned upside down, so 
there must be two of them. 

All the long-ears working at the stone statue rushed over to see, and 
from the camp the cook, steward, and photographer came running. The 
mayor's eyes were popping out of his head, and his chest was heaving 
as if he had just finished a hard sprint. Both he and Atan were filled 
with admiration and murmured praise of my afa-afa's power. Lazarus 
became very serious. He said that this area had belonged to his own 
family and their afa-afa. The mayor shivered. All the natives looked at 
me as if I were a strange animal. I knew myself that I had now a still 
greater surprise in reserve. 
"Have you seen a sculpture like that before?" I asked. 

No, nobody had. But this was a picture of a mamama niuhi, a dol- 
phin, they could all see that. 

"Then I'll make another of the very same sort come up inside the 
circle/* I said. 

The mayor sent his men back to collect boulders for the statue, while 
we four went on searching. Stone after stone was turned over, and we 
were nearing the goal. Then the steward called out that lunch was 
ready. I asked the others to wait till I came back. It was I who would 
make the whale appear. 

While I was sitting in the mess tent eating, I heard shouts and argu- 

Superstition against Superstition 

merits from the distance, and the mayor came running to get me, quite 
desperate. Unseen by him, two of the younger men had gone inside 
the circle and searched on their own. They had found the whale and 
were carrying it off between them to Hotu Matua's cave. They were 
going to sell it to me. The mayor was seriously agitated. I stood rubbing 
my nose. What the devil could I do now? Those two fellows had car- 
ried off the honors of the day, and now I should not be able to conjure 
up the whale I had already guaranteed I would produce myself. I re- 
turned to the area. 

Lazarus was bringing the two men back: they came reluctantly, 
dragging the whale, and laid it down where they had found it. But 
surely they were laying it in the wrong place? I went up with the 
mayor, and now it was my turn to be puzzled and speechless. My own 
whale still lay bottom upward; no one had yet touched it. Those two 
fellows who now stood before us, frightened, had found a third whale, 
a rather small one. Everything was all right, I reassured them. We 
would continue as soon as I had my lunch; then I would produce a still 
larger and finer whale. 

When we continued the search and came to the last sector of the 
circle, I noticed that all three carefully passed by the right stone, while 
they turned over every single one of the others. At last the circle was 

"There are no more/' the mayor said, a little astonished. 

"You haven't turned over that one," I said, and pointed to the all- 
important stone. 

"Yes, we did turn it over. Don't you see it's lying with the pale side 
uppermost?" said Lazarus. 

I suddenly realized that these children of nature could tell merely by 
looking at a stone whether it was lying with its old sunburned side up. 
This one lay with its pale, shaded side showing, and they thought they 
had turned it over themselves. 

"It doesn't matter whether you've turned it over or not," I said. "Turn 
it over once more. You remember what happened when Senor Arnc 
turned over the big stone you all knew so well up at Rano Raraku." 
Lazarus helped me to get a good hold, and we rolled the stone over. 

"Look!" was all Lazarus managed to gasp out. He simply stood star- 
ing and smiling foolishly, while Atan cheered loudly. 

The mayor seemed electrified and could only stammer: "Very im- 
portant very important. What a strong afyi-afa!" 

Both the long-ears from the statue and our own people from the 
camp came rushing up again to stare at the third whale. Even the two 
young rascals who had found a little whale of their own were vastly 
impressed, and the photographer and I, who had started the whole 
business, found it hard to keep a straight face, for this was the last word 
in queer coincidences. 

Eroria just shook her head and told me quietly that I had "good 
luck," real "good luck." She gazed enraptured at the three whales, and 
I thought to myself that for her this was a regular family portrait gal- 
lery, for it was she who had learned from her father that she was di- 
rectly descended from a whale. But old Mariana had something more 
to tell me. She lived with the shepherd Leonardo in a stone hut on the 
other side of the valley, and Leonardo's old brother Domingo had spent 
the last night with them. When the old man woke up that morning, 
he told them of a dream he had had : he had dreamed that Senor Kon- 
Tiki had caught five tunnies. 

"Then we're two short," the mayor said quickly, and before I knew 
what was happening the whole crowd began to turn all the stones on 
end once more; some of them in their eagerness undoubtedly went 
outside the circle. They were all absolutely determined to find the two 
required to make Domingo's dream come true. Late in the afternoon 
two obscure fish carvings came to light. Both were at once accepted 
as whales, and the natives triumphantly laid the five figures in a row 
on the sand. 

The mayor took up a little stone and drew an arc in the sand in 
front of the figures. Then he made a little hole in the middle of the 
arc and said: "That's done." 

He and Lazarus stood in front of the arc and sang a snatch of Hotu 
Matua's old song, their hips swaying rhythmically in hula fashion. They 
sang another snatch, then fell silent, and continued in this manner with 
short breaks, until at last evening came and everyone went home. 


Superstition against Superstition 

Early next morning Lazarus was on the spot with a sack over his 
shoulder. This he smuggled into my tent unobserved by anyone out- 
side. When he laid it down there was a clatter of stones. From that day 
onward Lazarus was a frequent night visitor to my tent. He worked 
with the others in the daytime and lay down to sleep with them in the 
cave when evening came. But in the darkness of the night he crept out 
over sleeping forms, got onto his horse, and disappeared over the ridge 
to the west. . . . Next morning there was another sack on the floor 
of my tent. 

The mayor was on tenterhooks for three days following, and then 
he too could control himself no longer. We went up into the scree and 
had a long talk. He told me he had a friend with a large red statue hid- 
den in his garden; it had no number on it, and his friend had promised 
that I could take it on board ship with me for "good luck." I explained 
that no one was allowed to have monuments of this kind; they were 
protected. The mayor was visibly disappointed; his contribution had 
not proved the success he had hoped. 

Clearly itching to win my favor, at long last he said quietly that he 
would talk to his own men. Several of them had family caves, and he 
would try to persuade them to bring me cave stones. But I must not 
allow myself to be misled if anyone brought me strange stones which 
looked newly scrubbed, even if the owners lied and declared that they 
themselves had found or made them. 

"For people are afraid to talk openly about these things," the mayor 
said. "Besides, they wash the cave stones and keep them clean." 

I said emphatically that they must never do that. It ruined the 

Then the mayor made his first slip: His father had expressly asked 
him to wash the stones, he assured me. 

"You must only blow the dust away," I explained, "or the surface 
will wear away." 

The mayor thought this )vas a sensible idea. I knew a lot, he said, 
and he would pass on this information. But he was worried about small 
roots and insects' eggs getting into the porous lava stone. In caves which 
were not looked after there were many figures which were cracked and 


A fa- A fa 

damaged. Before he realized what he had said, he had revealed that he 
washed all his figures at monthly intervals. 

I received this piece of information without any visible surprise, and 
as a result the mayor's tongue really started to wag. It took him fifteen 
nights to finish a washing ceremony, he confided, for as eldest brother 
he was responsible for four caves. His wife had to go fishing while he 
was busy with the stones; she could not help, as she belonged to another 

He always had to go into the cave alone and never make a sound 
while he was inside. He had to be quick and just snatch up a few stones 
one here, one there and then hurry out to wash them. He had 
money, too, in one of the caves. Iron money. But the caves were rather 
damp, so there were no wooden figures there. He had inherited two 
caves of the other kind, too, ana miro, and they were full of wooden 
things. But so far he had not been able to find the concealed openings 
leading to the two caves. He had been right on the spot three times and 
baked a chicken in an earth oven so that the smell would help him to 
find the way to the hidden entrances. So far it had not worked, but 
now he would have another try. 

Finally he told me that his own afa-afa had recently advised him 
to take things from the other caves and give them to Senor Kon-Tiki, 
in spite of his own father having told him never, never, never to take 
anything away from the caves. If I gave him a pair of trousers, a shirt, 
a tiny little scrap of cloth, and just a few dollars, he would hide them in 
the cave and take them out when a relative really needed them. And 
then we could await events. 

The mayor got what he asked for, but for a time nothing happened. 
Meanwhile the work of raising the statue had reached its sixteenth day, 
and before long the giant would tilt into position. The long-ears were 
working against time now, for the governor had been notified by wire- 
less that the warship Pinto was on her way to Easter Island. We were 
well into February, and the annual visit to the island was impending. 

The mayor was most anxious to get the statue raised so that the cap- 
tain of the warship would see with his own eyes that it was really stand- 
ing. The captain acted as the supreme authority on the island from the 

Superstition against Superstition 

moment he set foot ashore, and the mayor hoped he would give a fa- 
vorable report to the Chilean President. 

On the sixteenth day the mayor asked for rope to pull and counter- 
balance the statue when it was being raised erect. All the rope brought 
by the expedition was now in use on other parts of the island, and that 
evening we drove over to see the governor and ask him if he had any 
rope to spare. When we got there, he told us a radio message had come 
saying that the Pinto would arrive the very next day. She had been 
ten days under way. The mayor's face fell. Now he would not be able 
to complete the raising of the statute, for when the Pinto arrived every- 
one would be kept busy loading wool and unloading flour and sugar 
and certain sorely needed commodities for the coming year. The gov- 
ernor was sorry, too, but the long-ears and all my native workers would 
have to report to him next day. 

We drove on crestfallen through the village to Father Sebastian's, 
to give him the latest report on the progress of the work. I whispered 
in his ear that all efforts to get into a family cave were still of no avail, 
apart from the fact that I now had a remarkable collection of sculptures 
on board the ship. 

On our way to the priest's the mayor had suddenly proposed that 
both of us should sit and concentrate on our respective afo-afcis, asking 
them to help us hold up the Pinto so that he would have another day 
in which to complete the work. He sat on the toolbox, silent and rev- 
erent, between the photographer and myself, bouncing up and down 
and hanging on grimly to stop his head from hitting the roof. Return- 
ing from Father Sebastian's we passed right through the village once 
again, and were about to turn left at the crossroads where the jeep tracks 
ran off toward Anakena. There stood the governor in the beam of the 
headlights, pointing to a coil of rope lying by the roadside. He had just 
received another message: the Pinto would not be arriving until the 
day after tomorrow. 

I leaned back in my seat, helpless with silent laughter. The photog- 
rapher sat chuckling at the wheel. This was really the queerest coinci- 
dence of the lot. Only the mayor accepted it as a matter of course. 
"There you are," he murmured in my ear. 


I had nothing more to say. I merely sat shaking my head in amaze- 
ment as we bumped along in the dark. What no one knew as yet was 
that the long-ears would need two more working days instead of one. 
But the mayor, oblivious of this, sat rejoicing in the strength of our 
combined afyt-afas. His complacent mood gave way after a while to a 
sneaking suspicion that probably my al{u-akii rather than his had 
really done the trick; for he began, quite unprompted, to whisper to 
me about all the incredible things he had in his caves. Never, never 
had he taken from the caves anything he had inherited, but now he was 
being tempted more and more by his own al^u-at^ti. 

The next day was the seventeenth working day on the statue. 
Everyone expected it to be raised that day. It was then that the ancient 
crone turned up and laid her magic semicircle of stones on the huge 
slab on which the statue was to stand. Afterward she presented me with 
a large fishhook of black stone, exquisitely shaped and polished as bright 
as ebony. She had "found" it that very day as a sign of "good luck." 
I had never seen this old gray-haired woman before. She was a bent, 
fragile little creature, but behind her wrinkles one could see traces of a 
truly handsome, aristocratic face, and two shrewd, flashing eyes. The 
mayor whispered to me that she was the last surviving sister of his 
father. Her name was Victoria, but she preferred to be called Tahu-tahu, 
which meant "sorcery." She had been dancing for them all night in 
front of the cave to bring them "good luck" and to prevent the giant 
from falling over when it was suddenly tilted free of the stone pile. 

The giant did not capsize, but neither did it tip up into the vertical. 
When the seventeenth day was over, it still lay aslant. Next day it would 
most certainly have tilted into position, for only a little more maneuver- 
ing was needed. But next day the long-ears had to be in the village for 
the great event of the year, the visit of the warship. To the disappoint- 
ment of the mayor, the giant was doomed to remain in his undignified 
position, reclining drunkenly with the stone pile up to its nose, when 
the ship's captain made his personal tour of inspection. 

When night came only our guards were left in camp. The rest of 
us had gone on board, for at daybreak we were to put out to sea and 
escort the warship into the village bay. The constant emptiness of the 


Superstition against Superstition 

endless ocean surrounding us made the horizon appear to be a delicate 
spider's thread suspended between two shades of blue. But tomorrow 
morning when the village population woke there would be a fly and 
a midge hanging on the thread, and as they increased in size our two 
ships would soon be anchored side by side off the village. 

There was a third vessel too which in the last few days had occupied 
the natives more than usual. She was not armored with steel, but 
plaited together with golden fresh-water reeds, and the natives them- 
selves had launched her at Anakena. Now she lay on our ship's deck 
gleaming like gold in the sun. She had been built as a practical experi- 
ment, but once she was launched, she too sailed right into the web of 
secrecy surrounding the family caves. 

This phase of the mystery began early in the work of raising the 
statue. Ed, crawling about under the stone slabs in the narrow ruins up 
on the cliff edge in Orongo, had discovered wall carvings different from 
those already found on the island. The most curious were a typical 
American Indian weeping-eye motif, and several ceiling sculptures of 
crescent-shaped reed boats with masts. One of the reed boats had 
lateral lashings and a large square sail. 

We knew that at the time of the earliest European visits the inhab- 
itants of Easter Island had made for themselves the same curious one- 
and two-man reed boats that Inca Indians and their predecessors have 
used along the coast of Peru since time immemorial. But no one had 
ever heard of the old Easter Islanders making reed boats large enough 
to carry sail. I myself had special reasons for being interested. I had 
sailed on Lake Titicaca in reed boats of this kind, with mountain In- 
dians from the Tiahuanaco plain as my crew. I knew that they were 
splendid craft of incredible carrying capacity and speed. At the time of 
the Spanish conquests large reed boats of this kind were in use on the 
open sea off the coast of Peru, and drawings 1 on jars from pre-Inca 
times show that during the oldest period of Peruvian civilization people 
had built regular ships out of reeds, just as the old Egyptians had built 

1 Sec Plate LXXXI and figures on pp. 588-89 of Thor Hcycrdahl, American Indians 
in the Pacific (Oslo, Stockholm, London, Chicago, 


crafts of papyrus. Rafts of balsa logs and boat-shaped vessels of fresh- 
water reeds were an unsinkable means of conveyance, which the people 
of Peru preferred for all sea traffic. I knew too that the reed boats would 
float for many months without getting waterlogged, and a reed boat 
from Lake Titicaca which Peruvian friends had brought down to the 
Pacific took to the seas like a swan and went twice as fast as a balsa raft. 

And now we were suddenly confronted with illustrations of reed 
boats among old ceiling paintings in Ed's ruined house No. 19, on the 
edge of the crater of Easter Island's largest volcano. We not only found 
pictures of the boats, but we also found a surviving supply of the boat- 
men's reeds. From the ceremonial center where Ed found his paintings 
we could look down in the abyss beneath us at one side and see the 
ocean spending its fury on the rocks, flinging up the salt spume. But 
turning around to face the giant caldron of the crater, we looked down 
upon a calm fresh-water lake completely overgrown with tall reeds. 
This was the giant reed the old Easter Islanders had used. Every single 
native could still tell of a little craft they called a for a, which each of 
the competitors had made for himself to use in the race to the bird 
islands for the first egg of the year. 

Actually, this particular reed was something of a botanical curiosity. 
It was recognized by botanists as an American fresh-water reed, and 
in fact the very reed that grows round Lake Titicaca. It was therefore 
most surprising to find it here, down in a crater lake on Easter Island. 
This was the reed used by the Peruvian Indians to build their strange 
vessels on the shores of Lake Titicaca; and it was laboriously cultivated 
in artificially irrrigated swamps along the desert coast of Peru in areas 
where access to balsa logs for raft building was difficult. How had this 
highly important American reed, a fresh-water plant, come all the way 
to Easter Island? 

The natives had their own answer. According to a tradition already 
collected by Father Sebastian, the reed was not originally a wild plant, 
like certain other plants on the island. This reed had been brought along 
and carefully planted down in the volcano by one of their first ancestors, 
Uru by name. He had gone down into Rano Kao crater with rootstocks 
and planted the first reed, and when it spread he had taken new root- 


Superstition against Superstition 

stocks, first to the crater lake at Rano Raraku, and then to Rano Aroi. 
The tall reed became one of the most important plants on the island. 
It was used not only to construct vessels, but also to build houses and 
make mats, baskets, and hats. To this very day the natives go down 
regularly to cut reeds in the crater lakes. And down in a shining pool 
in the middle of the Rano Kao swamp below us we saw through our 
glasses a large reed raft, which the children had made for a swimming 

I wanted to make a pora. Apart from a drawing by one of the early 
European visitors, no modern-day person had ever seen what it was 
like and how it was used in the open sea off the island. 

'The Pakarati brothers should be able to help you," said Father 
Sebastian, interested in the new problem I had brought him. "They're 
four amusing old fellows who know all about boats and fishing." 

Yes, said Pedro and Santiago and Domingo and Timoteo, they could 
make a pora. But I must give them each a good knife and enough time 
for the reeds to dry. The four old men were given their knives, and 
went down to the crater lake in Rano Raraku. There were two kinds of 
reed boat, old Timoteo explained. One kind was for a single person 
setting out for the bird islands in search of eggs; the other was for two 
persons fishing in the open sea. I asked them to make one of each kind. 
The reeds, which were much taller than the men themselves, were cut 
off at the roots and laid to dry beside the lake at the bottom of the inner 
statue quarry. Then the four old fellows rode round the island looking 
for rnahute and hau-hau bushes; from the bark of these they would 
make old-time ropes so that the reeds could be bound in the traditional 

It was an eternity before the old men got their reeds ready, for no 
sooner did they leave the crater where they had laid them out to dry, 
than other natives went in with horses and rode off with large bundles. 
The reeds were popular for mats and mattresses, and it was so much 
simpler to supply oneself with reeds ready-cut than with those still 
growing in the swamp. And so the old fellows had to set to work with 
their knives again. 

One day, while the green reeds were still being dried in the Rano 

From an old drawing of an Easter Island native with topknot and full 

beard. He came swimming on a small reed pora to visit the ship of Petit- 

Thouar, one of the early European visitors. 

Superstition against Superstition 

Raraku crater, I took a tent with me and went down into the volcano 
of Rano Kao; up on the rim was the bird-men's ruined village. Thor 
took a leave of absence from helping Ed, and he was with me when I 
clambered down the steep wall of the crater into the interior of the 
volcano. This was the wildest sight we had seen anywhere on the island. 
When we had descended by the only possible path down the crater 
wall, there was not a single foot of solid flat ground to be found. 
Stretched out before us was a vast oozing quagmire which lay like 
green spinach at the bottom of a giant caldron with walls rising steeply 
into the sky on every side. The photographer, who was with us too, 
could tackle peaks and cliffs with the agility of a mountain goat, but 
he was not at his ease down by the bog here at the bottom of the crater. 
The base of the slope on which we stood was very steep, and if we set 
foot on the bog either we stepped into water or the whole surface 
swayed under us like a rocking boat. 

At the bottom of the slope we had to build a small platform of 
boughs, carpeted with reeds, before we had enough level ground to 
pitch our tents without rolling into the bog. Wherever we moved either 
there was sheer precipice above our heads, or else there were endless 
screes, so steep that any attempt to scramble up was liable to start a 
rockfall. In the few places where the slopes were not too steep for us to 
climb, trees and bushes had got in ahead of us and formed a dense 
scrub. It was from the depths of this crater that the people of Easter 
Island had obtained their wood right up to our own time. For once, 
with plenty of firewood on hand, we enjoyed the luxury of a blazing 
campfire, a friendly spark rekindled in an extinct volcano. When we 
finally retired to our tent for the night, we praised the unknown navi- 
gator Uru who had given us such a wonderful reed mattress. 

Till now no one had carried out any test boring for a study of this 
gigantic swamp, and with this purpose in mind, we expected to be 
down in the volcano several days and nights. After all, according to 
legend it was here that the boat-building reeds which we knew had 
come from South America had first been planted. The very first Span- 
iards who came to the island from Peru had recognized this important 
fresh-water reed as the totora of the Incas, and modern botanists have 

shown that they were right. It was now our intention to bore down into 
the marsh, as far as our special twenty-five-foot bore could reach, for 
samples of turf. We knew that a bog like this was just the place in 
which all kinds of pollen would be hermetically preserved for all time. 
On our return Professor Olof Selling of Stockholm was going to ana- 
lyze the samples and determine the ancient vegetable life throughout 
the history of Easter Island. 

If we were lucky the pollen would tell us whether Easter Island had 
ever been covered with forests, and also when the South American 
fresh-water reed was first introduced into the crater lake. Anyone could 
see that it was a long time ago, for the great crater lake was over three 
hundred acres in extent, and yet so thickly covered with green totora 
that it resembled a huge sugar-cane plantation. Occasionally brown, 
yellow, and black patches of moss, mud, and tangled dead reeds broke 
the expanse of green. 

It looked as if any movement on this surface would be dangerous, 
but the natives, feeling their way for generations across the swamp, had 
got to know the safe places and paths leading to some of the open water 
holes. When the villagers were suffering from drought, they had to 
ascend the lofty volcano and then climb down into this deep crater to 
fetch water from the marsh. The natives believed the lake was bottom- 
less, and Father Sebastian told us that someone had let down a 500- 
foot line in one of the open pools without touching bottom. 

The morning sun was late in reaching the depths of the volcano, 
and as we lay blowing at the smoking fire for our morning coffee, 
Ed's native foreman Tepano came clambering down to guide us out 
into the quagmire. We wanted to reach a series of areas which I had 
chosen for test borings. He took us on a queer walk. As soon as we 
had set foot on the heaving bog, we had first to force our way through 
a jungle of giant reeds standing eight feet high and as close-packed as 
the bristles of a brush. These lush green reeds grew up from a tangle 
of dead reed fibers whose tough coils wound about our limbs and pulled 
us down into an endless web. From these seemingly bottomless snares 
we could only raise ourselves by pushing thick bundles of fresh reeds 
beneath our bellies as we crawled. 


Superstition against Superstition 

When we got through this dense barricade which skirted the edge of 
the overgrown lake, the whole crater marsh spread out before us like 
a patchwork quilt of brown, yellow, green, blue, and black. At some 
places we had to wade through surface water while the turf beneath 
teetered and swung; at others we sank up to our knees in moss and 
mud. At every step we felt that we should be dragged down into un- 
plumbed depths if we did not immediately put the other foot forward 
and move on. Here and there were breaks in the floating surface marsh 
with open coffee-colored water between, and the whole mass lurched 
violently as we jumped across. 

In many places giant reeds grew in small thickets, and when we 
forced our way out of one of these, the photographer saw Tepano, 
Thor, and me in a single step disappear into a water hole completely 
coated over with green slime. Tepano assured us that there was no 
danger so long as we could swim. 

The sun blazed down fiercely into that windless witches' caldron, 
and as we crawled out of the trap mud and green slime were baked 
onto our hair and bodies, making us look like dried-up water sprites. 
At last even the black, open water pools tempted us to take a dip and 
clean up. The water was quite tepid on the surface, but ice-cold farther 
down. Tepano begged us insistently to keep our heads above water; 
once a native had dived near the edge and never found his way up 
again because he had got lost under the floating turf. 

We found no suitable places for boring. If we put the bore in, it 
went straight through the turf and down into open water. Often the 
turf was ten or twelve feet thick and consisted of a tangled mass of 
dead reeds. If we sounded in the water holes, we recorded the most 
varying depths, and we never got down to the bottom of the crater lake, 
for there was always some underwater tangle in the way. Tepano told 
us that these water holes were never in quite the same place: they 
shifted from year to year. Everything was in motion down in the 
witches' caldron. 

Before evening came Tepano went back over the edge of the crater, 
and the photographer left us too. Thor and I were to remain down in 
the crater a few days longer, to see if we could get better borings. We 

now knew the secrets of the crater bog; we could tell from the coloring 
and substance what to expect when we put our feet down. 

Next day we made our way right across the marsh to the crater face 
on the other side. There we caught sight of a stone wall twelve feet 
high, built on the very edge of the swamp. It was overgrown with scrub 
and straggling wisps of greenery, and when we climbed up it we 
reached an old man-made platform. From there we could see that four 
or five other walls continued as terraces, one above the other, along the 
side of the crater. And when we began to look about, we found low 
rectangular openings leading to underground stone houses of the type 
hitherto known only at the bird-men's ruined village up on the cliff 
at Orongo. We had come upon a collection of ruins unknown even to 
the natives; at any rate they had never said a word about it to any 
white man. 

A number of the stones in the walls were covered with half-effaced 
relief carvings of human beings, birds, and fabulous creatures. There 
were grotesque faces and magical eyes. The most conspicuous were a 
couple of bird-men and a four-legged beast with a human head. Ed 
later worked this site with his team from Orongo. He found that the 
terraces had once been built for agriculture, and at the foot of the lowest 
wall we took numerous samples of turf and soil for the pollen tests. 

On our fourth day down in the crater we were sitting sealing up all 
our test tubes with melted paraffin when our skipper came clambering 
down into the volcano with the news that Arne had made a new dis- 
covery at Rano Raraku. He had dug out the body of a giant statue 
which had been standing with its head above ground, and on the chest 
of the figure was a picture of a large reed boat with three masts and 
several sails. From the deck of the boat a long line ran down to a turtle 
carved on the giant's stomach. 

We packed our things and left behind us the crater bottom of Rano 
Kao. While Thor went up to Ed's ruined village, I drove to Rano 
Raraku with the skipper. Arnc showed us his new find. All his native 
workers stood by, beaming with pride and veneration at the ancient 
vessel's catching a turtle on the moats stomach. They were all sure that 
this was Hotu Matua's own ship, for he had landed on the island with 

Superstition against Superstition 

several hundred men on board two vessels so large that Oroi, Hotu 
Matua's worst enemy, had made the passage as a stowaway. There were 
no honu, or turtles, on the island today, but when Hotu Matua came, 
one of his men had been injured trying to catch a big one on the beach 
at Anakena. 

As so often before, stories of the great feats of their ancestors were 
recalled and I was treated to fragments of well-known Hotu Matua 
legends which had actually been recorded by Father Roussel and Pay- 
master Thomson at the end of the last century. We could all see that 
this was an unusual ship and certainly not a European craft. But it was 
strange to realize that the Easter Island statue makers built themselves 
vessels so large that there was room to step more than a single mast. 
And yet, who would have thought that the same people could have 
erected gigantic human figures as high as four-story buildings, but for 
the fact that these statues still remained, thanks to the imperishable 
stone in which they were carved? It was obvious that these tireless engi- 
neering geniuses were not merely expert builders in stone: after all it 
was as mariners in the world class that they had been able to find their 
way out to this exceedingly lonely haven, where they had created their 
statues in peace for centuries. Since they had the totora reed, and used 
it to make small rafts, there was really no reason why, by lashing more 
and larger bundles together, they should not have been able to increase 
the size according to requirements. 

When the first Europeans came to Easter Island they saw nobody 
building ships, but neither did they see anyone making statues. The only 
craft the Europeans saw were tiny narrow canoes which could just hold 
from two to four men in a smooth sea, and even smaller reed rafts. But 
the Europeans came to the island in the third, or barbarian, period when 
war had destroyed all the old culture and bloody feuds prevented col- 
laboration between the various family groups. In these chaotic times a 
divided people, spending most of their time in and around their refuge 
caves, were hardly likely to get together and build ships. 

This explains why historic records of only two miserable little types 
of craft in Easter Island have come down to us a little Polynesian out- 
rigger canoe, the va^a ama, and a little South American reed raft, the 

pora, both of them too small ever to have brought man to the world's 
most solitary island. But native legends contain vivid descriptions of 
large vessels used for long voyages by their ancestors in the golden age 
of long ago. In the last century Father Roussel was told of great ships 
which could carry four hundred passengers and had the lofty bow 
raised like a swan's neck, while the stern, equally high, was split into 
two separate parts. Many of the reed boats we find depicted on ancient 
jars in Peru are just like this. But Easter Island traditions also tell of 
other old types. Father Sebastian had learned that there was a large 
vessel shaped like a flat raft or barge. It was called a val^a poepoe, and 
was also used when the navigators set out on long voyages with many 
people on board. 

Now that Ed and Arne had each found a picture of a reed boat, we 
were on the alert every time we saw a boat-shaped figure. We found 
several on the statues and in the quarry itself with the bundles of reeds 
clearly defined, and Bill found one with a mast and a square sail. On 
the underside of a fallen statue over thirty feet long Carl found a reed 
boat with a mast running straight up the figure's stomach in such a 
way that the navel formed a circular sail; and up in Orongo Ed found 
a ceiling painting of another, with a little round sail on the middle mast 
of her three. 

It so happened that we were to obtain yet more tangible evidence 
that such large vessels had existed. In many parts of the island we had 
seen wide paved roads which disappeared straight down into the sea. 
These mysterious constructions had in the course of time stimulated a 
great number of vivid speculations. They have been one of the main 
supports for all who believe that Easter Island is the remains of a 
sunken continent. The paved roads, it has been said, undoubtedly con- 
tinued along the ocean floor, and if one could follow them, the ruins 
of the sunken continent of Mu could be reached. 

We could easily follow them: we had a frogman among our crew. 
And with him we rode to the nearest roadway which vanished down 
into the depths. It was a priceless sight to see the frogman in his green 
uniform, with Martian helmet and oxygen mask, marching down the 
road to Mu with his frog fins flapping on the smooth paving stones. 


Superstition against Superstition 

He swung in his hand a flame-colored camera container, resembling a 
lantern, and he waved a graceful farewell as he left the dry pavement 
and strode on into the sea. 

Soon we saw only the oxygen containers on his back and two 
splashing feet, and then the frogman disappeared entirely. Only scat- 
tered air bubbles breaking on the surface told us which way he was 
going. But clearly the frogman was not finding any short cut to Mu. 
Soon we saw the bubbles moving to the left, then they changed direc- 
tion and struck off to the right; and as we watched the bubbles wan- 
dered to and fro in rings and spirals till the frogman poked his snouted 
helmet up out of the water to take a fresh bearing from the road ashore. 
Then he continued his underwater search, zigzagging in a seaward 
direction, till he gave up and swam ashore to report. 

" Weren't there any signposts down there?" 

"Didn't you meet a mermaid who could tell you the way?" 

Questions rained down upon the poor frogman. He had seen no 
road. The paving went no further than the water's edge; beyond there 
were only ledges and boulders, mushroom corals, and deep crevices, 
till the rocky ocean floor shelved steeply into hazy blue depths at a spot 
where he had seen some big fish. 

We were not particularly surprised. Oceanographers had long since 
established, on the basis of deposits taken from the bottom of the 
Pacific, that in the Polynesian part of that ocean the land masses had 
neither risen nor fallen so long as man has existed. 

Once again I had recourse to the natives. No one could remember 
what the broad paved roads leading down to the sea had been used for, 
but they had a name : they were called apapa. Apapa means "unload." 
This confirmed our suspicion: they were unloading places or land- 
ing ramps where large vessels coming in from the sea were drawn 

One apapa ran down to a shallow inlet at the foot of a large temple 
platform on the south coast. The inlet was so full of boulders that the 
old navigators had had to clear a wide channel to enable craft to come 
alongside the landing stage. And in the shallows of this channel lay 
three gigantic red topknots, abandoned in the water. Two of these 


putyo lay so close together that they must have been on board the same 
vessel. This was the first evidence we had come across suggesting that 
the sculptors had sent some of their heavy cargoes by sea along the 
coast We had now established that they actually had vessels which 
could transport twenty tons, and without a cargo they would have been 
able to carry a crew of nearly two hundred. Later we found proof that 
even individual statues had been carried by sea and landed at a spot 
where only a reed boat or log raft of very shallow draft could have 
come in with so heavy a cargo. 

While we were beginning, bit by bit, to get a clearer picture of the 
remarkable maritime achievements of the earliest islanders, the four 
old men were working away with their totora reeds in the Rano Raraku 
crater. When the reeds were dried, each of them swiftly made his own 
pora. By using a special lashing, they achieved a curved, pointed shape, 
exactly like a huge tusk. It was eerie to see them going down to the 
water, each with his own craft, because what they were carrying were 
perfect copies of the peculiar one-man boat which had been a character- 
istic feature of the Peruvian coast for centuries. And as we knew, it was 
even made from the same South American fresh-water reed. 

When the four old men were about to start building the larger two- 
man boat, Timoteo directed operations with complete assurance; the 
other three seemed helpless without his orders. This was so obvious 
that I asked the reason, and was told that Timoteo was the oldest, and 
therefore the only one who knew what the boat should look like. I 
was a little surprised at the reply, but it was not till some time afterward 
that I began to suspect the reason. 

When the canoe-shaped, two-man boat was launched at Anakena, 
she strongly recalled, in all her construction, the reed boats of Lake 
Titicaca. The only difference was that the bow and stern were drawn 
out in a long point sticking up into the air at an angle, just as in the 
most ancient reed boats on the coast of Peru. The two older brothers 
jumped on board, each with his paddle, and the curious, flexible craft 
danced easily over high foaming breakers, heading for the open sea. On 
top of it rode the two old men dry and safe. The other two plunged 
into the breakers, each with his one-man pora, and confidently faced 


How did ancient Easter Islanders raise a statue without modern apparatus? 
The long-cars' descendants, led by the mayor, agreed to disclose the secret. 
ABOVL: First three wooden poles lift the statue by fractions of an inch as 
the mayor shoves small stones beneath it. As more stones are added, their 

With a heap of stones under its stomach the figure moves upward and back- 
wards until it stands in its old place on the wall. Twelve men with poles 
and stones set it up in eighteen days. 

On the last day the giant is held by ropes to prevent it from toppling off 
the high wall when it is tilted into the standing position. 

ABOVE: A landmark visible far out to sea stood at Anakcna when the giant 
was restored to his former place on the king's old site, behind our camp. 
BELOW; After excavating the ahu at Vinapu, Bill discovered this particular 
wall had been built by stone masons of the first Easter Island epoch. 

Superstition against Superstition 

the sea. They lay with their torsos up on the thick end of the stout, 
tusk-shaped bundle of reeds, and pushed themselves forward through 
the water by swimming with arms and legs. The two-man boat, farther 
out, took the seas so safely and gracefully that when she returned from 
her trial trip, all four brothers crawled on board and headed again into 
the roughest seas. 

Father Sebastian and the mayor stood with me on the shore. We 
were, all three, equally fascinated and excited. Just behind us was the 
back of the long-ears' giant statue which had begun to rise above the 
tops of the tents, but the mayor had eyes only for the golden-yellow boat 
with the four men paddling in unison out on the sea. He just stared and 
stared, with tears in his eyes. 

"Our grandparents have told us of boats like this, exactly like this, 
but this is the first time any of us has seen one, and it brings our an- 
cestors so near to us," he said. "I feel it here," he added, thumping his 
chest with emotion. 

When Timoteo's two-man boat came in again with four men pad- 
dling, one of our biggest sailors clambered onto the stern without the 
craft showing a sign of sinking. If the little hastily built reed boat could 
carry five grown men, there could hardly have been anything to stop 
the ancient local engineers from cutting enough reeds in the three 
craters of the island to build themselves sizable ships. 

Father Sebastian was quite fascinated. He had had these strange 
boats described to him before, by old people on the island, but only now 
did he understand what they had meant. Now he remembered that 
they had also shown him a picture of such a craft, painted in a cave 
on Poike. 

"This is a fishing boat," said the mayor, and pointed proudly to the 
golden vessel. "Think what sort of boats the ancient kings had for 
their long voyages." 

I asked if he knew whether they were large enough to use sails, 
and to my astonishment he replied that they had sails of reed matting. 
Once more I was amazed at the mayor as he calmly began to draw in 
the sand a sail made of reeds which ran perpendicularly. It was easy 
to make such a sail, he said. One had only to bind the reeds together 


side by side, as Domingo had done quite recently when he made a 
mat for me. 

I myself had seen how the totora boats on Lake Titicaca use reed 
sails to this very day, the only difference being that in them the reeds 
were sewn together horizontally instead of upright. 
"How do you know the boats had reed sails ?" I asked, rather puzzled. 
"Aha, Don Pedro knows a lot," he replied with a proud, secretive 

The reed-boat launching took place during the time Estevan was 
still bringing me his wife's cave stones, and it was the previous night 
that Lazarus brought his very first head from the cave. He was so 
excited now that he could not restrain himself, and told me that among 
all the other things he had seen in the cave, there were small models 
of ships. Some of them reminded him of those which Timoteo had built. 

As soon as I heard this, I took a gamble. Estevan had just asked on 
behalf of his wife if there was anything special I wanted from her cave. 
I had not known what to request, since I did not know what was there. 
Now Lazarus had let out that his cave had models of boats. Getting 
Estevan aside, I fired a long shot at him. I told him to ask his wife to 
give me "the boats" she had in the cave. Estevan stared at me round- 
eyed, but when the day's work was over, he galloped off in the direc- 
tion of the village. Late that night he was back again with five amazing 
sculptures in a sack. The first, which he unpacked from some dry 
banana leaves, was a pretty little crescent-shaped model of a reed boat. 
He added that according to his wife there was a still finer boat left in 
the cave: it had fine lashings and was high and pointed both fore and 
aft, and it also had a figurehead at each end. 

I listened to him on tenterhooks, for this was the night when I 
expected Lazarus and the mayor to come and walk in a circle round 
the hidden whale. When Estevan slipped out into the darkness, I did 
not know that his wife, scared by the afa-afas, would stop him from 
bringing anything more for many nights to come. 

Lazarus himself did not get away to fetch a boat that night, for 
when he and the mayor had returned to their sleeping friends in Hotu 
Matua's cave after the nocturnal ceremony, the restless mayor lay with 


Superstition against Superstition 

his eyes open and saw mysterious lights and other omens outside the 
entrance to the cave. But the next night, after all the whales had been 
found, Lazarus saw his chance of stealing out over his sleeping friends. 
One of them had waked and drawn his legs up quickly, for on Easter 
Island it's bad luck to have a person step over you. He had asked what 
Lazarus was up to, and Lazarus had said that he had to go out to obey 
a call of nature. But he had his horse standing saddled behind a rock, 
and had ridden off toward the cave at Hanga-o-Teo. 

Early in the morning Lazarus pushed a sack into my tent. He 
squatted down on the canvas floor and proudly drew from the sack 
a stone model of a tusk-shaped, one-man pora with lashings. Then came 
a monster resembling an alligator, and an excellent red-stone bowl 
with three human heads sculptured in high relief round the edge. He 
said there were three more boats in the same cave, but none of them 
were so like those which Timoteo and his men had made as the one 
he had brought with him. 

Lazarus was well rewarded for what he had brought, and I asked 
him to bring the other boat sculptures with him next time. This he did 
three nights later. One was a model of a good-sized ship with a broad 
deck and high bow and stern, and both deck and sides were made of 
thick bundles of reeds lashed together. The other craft was a va\a 
poepoe, as broad and flat as a raft, with a mast and sail and two inex- 
plicable domes side by side on the forward deck. The third was not 
a real boat, it was more like a long dish, but it was carved as if made 
of reeds, with a hole for a mast in the middle. At each end there was 
a most curious head, placed inside the hull at bow and stern and staring 
toward the masthole. One of the heads had blown-out cheeks and 
pursed lips, resembling a cherub sending a puff of wind into the sail. 
The hair was blended with the reeds on the outside of the vessel. 

The sculptures were old, and both the subject and the style were 
completely foreign to Easter Island. When I questioned Lazarus closely 
about the stones he brought me, he just flung up his hands and was 
unable to give any explanation. The stones were like that, he could say 
no more. But there were masses and masses of other queer things left 
in the cave, and as he had now seen that no disaster followed, he 


would take me with him one day after the visit of the warship. His 
one condition was that not a soul in the village should know what we 
were doing as long as I was still on the island. 

The mayor had so far not brought me anything, apart from his 
own eternally repeated wooden figures. On the last evening before the 
warship came, I called him into my tent. This was my last chance. 
Arrangements for his trip had been made; when the warship left, the 
mayor was going with it, and no one else on the island, not even his 
own wife, knew the entrance to his secret caves. 

When he came into the tent, I had prepared a really pleasant sur- 
prise for him, partly because he deserved an extra reward for all he 
had taught us, but also in the selfish hope that he might produce an 
equally pleasant surprise for me. I rolled down the tent walls, screwed 
down the lampwick till it was half-dark, and leaned toward him, whis- 
pering. I had the impression that his hair was already beginning to 
stand on end: he clearly realized that something of a mystical nature 
was going to happen. 

I told him that my a\u-a\u had said to me that the mayor needed 
a good many things for his first voyage from Easter Island, and I was 
going to take my a\u-akifs advice and give him just what it had told 
me he needed. Thereupon I brought out my best suitcase which I 
presented to him, and in it I placed a blanket, sheets, towels, a warm 
jersey, two pairs of new khaki trousers, shirts, various ties, socks, hand- 
kerchiefs, shoes, and all kinds of toilet articles from comb and soap to 
toothbrush and razor. He also got a rucksack full of kitchen utensils 
and camping equipment, so that he could fend for himself. Several 
cartons of his favorite cigarettes followed, and a wallet full of Chilean 
pesos to keep him going if he struck hard times in the great unknown 
world. He received one of Yvonne's best dresses as a farewell present 
to his wife, and various children's garments. 

The last thing I produced was a stuffed baby cayman, or South 
American alligator, a foot long, which a Panama native had induced 
me to buy for a small sum. Both Estevan and Lazarus had brought me 
a similar reptile in stone from their respective family caves; and the 
same animal, referred to as mo{o, was also depicted in a well-known 


Superstition against Superstition 

wood carving on the island. The mofo is known throughout Polynesia 
as a ferocious legendary creature, although the only resemblance to it 
on these islands are tiny innocent lizards. This has led many people 
to believe that the mo\o of Easter Island was a recollection of caymans 
which the old navigators had seen on the tropical coast of South 

I handed the little stuffed beast to the mayor, saying: "You can 
put this in your cave as an a\u-a\u guardian while you yourself are 
on the mainland." 

The mayor had grown so excited as the gifts were handed to him 
one by one that his eyes nearly popped out of his head; now he went 
completely mad. He whispered hoarsely that he had a stone exactly like 
that creature in his cave, and he would bring it to me. Then he no 
longer could find words. He shook my hand with both his, and man- 
aged only to reiterate that my afa-af(u was "muy bueno, mity, muy, 
muy bueno." 

It was black night before he crept out of the tent, a very happy man, 
and called to his faithful friend Lazarus to help carry the heavy spoils 
to the waiting horses. Then they dashed off to catch up with all their 
friends on the way to the village. 

So the cave mystery remained a confused and unsolved riddle, and 
the sturdy giant stood aslant by the tents with a humiliating stone pile 
up to his nose, as the Anakena Valley was emptied of people. After 
seventeen days' working on the statue, one day short of completion, 
the long-ears rode home to be ready for the work and festivities of 
tomorrow. We ourselves temporarily abandoned the tents and went 
on board our ship, which lay in the bay spick-and-span and freshly 
painted, ready to put to sea to meet the Pinto. 





the morning sun still hung low over the sea, bathing the 
cliffs along the coast in gold and haunting shadows. Broad and flat, and 
all gray, supporting a bristling pyramid of the tools of modern war- 
fare, she grew in size as she approached us a greeting from the world 
outside, the first reminder that there was still land beyond the horizon. 
The winds had filled in Iko's ditch, man had changed his weapons. 

We met the Pinto just outside the bird islands. On every deck of the 
great ship towering above us people were lined up at the rails. As 
soon as we were alongside, Captain Hartmark gave a blast of the siren, 
and we welcomed our hosts by dipping our ensign. The warship replied 
by firing one of her guns and running up the Norwegian flag on her 
mainmast. This was more friendly than we had dared to hope. We 
came about smartly, putting on all the speed our engines would stand, 
and the little Greenland trawler escorted the gray leviathan to her 
anchorage off Hangaroa Village. The whole population was down at 


the pier. The Pinto fired again, this time twenty-one salutes, and then 
the launch came out from the shore bringing the governor to bid the 
captain welcome to his naval protectorate. 

Twenty minutes after the governor had gone aboard, I went over 
in our launch with the skipper and the expedition doctor, as had been 
agreed. We had a most cordial reception. We were piped aboard, and 
the captain and governor stood at the head of the ladder to receive us. 
Up in the captain's cabin we met a Chilean surgeon-admiral and the 
American naval attache with his wife; he was to explore the possibility 
of constructing a large-scale airfield on Easter Island, thereby opening 
an air route between South America and Australia. Over a cocktail I 
gave thanks in a little speech for the wonderful hospitality the governor 
and his people had shown us during our stay, and the captain most 
cordially followed up by wishing us as good fortune in the future as 
we had hitherto had on the island. He offered us supplies if there was 
anything we lacked, and turned over to us two large mailbags on which 
our skipper and the doctor laid eager hands. The formalities were thus 
disposed of and the foundation laid for a pleasant relationship. 

Soon after the door opened again, and in came the mayor wearing 
a freshly ironed shirt and tie, marching ahead of Lazarus and half a 
dozen chosen natives. The mayor rushed straight up to the grave, gold- 
braided captain, shook him vigorously by the hand, and in a loud voice 
announced to us all that this was the right kind of captain he knew 
how things ought to be done, he was the first who had fired a salute 
when he came to the island. Then he drew himself up as straight as 
a ruler, with his fingers pointed down along the sides of his trousers, 
and, with his men standing stiffly at attention behind him, he sang the 
Chilean national anthem with full bravura squarely into the stoic cap- 
tain's face. The very second this was over all the natives relaxed com- 
pletely, and with flexed arms and swaying shoulders and hips they burst 
into their rhythmical royal song about Hotu Matua's landing at 
Anakena. The mayor had hardly finished the last verse when he caught 
sight of me. He stiffened like a cat about to spring, pointed, and ex- 
claimed : 
"Mi amigo, Senor Kon-Tiki!" 


Meeting the Caves' Dumb Guardians 

As if on a signal, he and all his friends stuck their hands deep into 
their pockets and pulled out packs of American cigarettes, which they 
held up under the captain's nose. Here he could inspect samples of the 
good brands Senor Kon-Tiki had brought to the island. That was how 
it ought to be done! 

The captain listened with admirable patience, and when the cocktail 
tray came in again, drinks were offered to the new arrivals too. The 
mayor's eyes shone with pleasure: this captain was a damned sensible 
fellow after all. It didn't matter that the cigarettes he brought were not 
as good as Senor Kon-Tiki's. 

I watched with anxiety as the cocktail disappeared into the mayor 
at a single gulp. He gave me a sidelong look of satisfaction and said 
with a reassuring nod that I need not be alarmed, he knew what it was 
to drink good wine. Then he and his colleagues strolled cheerfully out 
of the captain's cabin to inspect the big ship. 

The next time I saw the mayor he was standing surrounded by an 
admiring crowd down in the bar of the officers' mess. There were a 
number of special passengers on board this trip, including two pro- 
fessors, Wilhelm and Peiia, and a party of Chilean students of archae- 
ology who had come out to look at our excavations. I knew the two 
friendly professors from Chile, and was heartily embraced in Latin 
fashion. Both they and the students listened with great interest to our 
report of the discovery of Easter Island's different epochs, and of the 
statues of an alien type which we had dug out of the earth. 

I dared not say a word in the bar about the curious sculptures I had 
obtained from secret family caves: a single careless word now would 
ruin all my chances of solving the riddle. The whole project of getting 
into one of them still hung by a thread, and if anything leaked out to 
the natives now, they would be frightened and seal their mouths shut, 
and thereby their caves. 

But when I rose to go, I had a real shock. From the bar I heard 
the mayor's bragging voice rise in a new and peculiar tone. And when 
I saw the manner in which he put down his empty glass, I realized that 
the counter was somewhat out of focus. Then the mayor said, loud and 
clear: "My friends, I'm a rich man. 1 have a cave." 


I stood for a moment or two as though nailed to the floor, waiting 
to hear what would happen next. Nothing happened. The others went 
on talking and drinking, and the mayor did not say another word. 
Either no one heard him, or it had been taken merely as drunken talk, 
if in fact anyone understood there was anything special about having 
a cave. The mayor must have come to and been frightened at his loose 
tongue, for no sooner had I returned to our own ship than he was on 
his way to the shore in another boat. 

This year a poor stock of wood carvings was offered to the crew 
and passengers of the Pinto. The best had already been traded to the 
members of our expedition. Accordingly Professor Pena went straight 
up to the mayor's own hut, where he found an ample choice of finished 
and half-finished wooden figures of the best quality. But the mayor 
refused to sell; all had been made for Senor Kon-Tiki, and now he had 
more orders from Kon-Tiki's ship than he could handle. 

Pena had to accept this. The mayor continued to prattle, next about 
Kon-Tiki's "good luck/' Whenever Kon-Tiki's men turned over a 
stone or stuck a spade into the earth something strange came to light. 
Pena listened patiently to this too, but when the garrulous mayor got 
going, still not free from the influence of the cocktail hour, there was 
absolutely no end to all the things the Kon-Tiki people had found in 
the earth. At last Professor Pena became alarmed. The mayor's de- 
scription was bound to give anyone the impression that the grass of 
Easter Island grew upon a solid mass of art treasures. He quite forgot 
to mention that all we had found of real value underground were ruins 
and giant figures, all of which were still left in place. Pena could not 
but believe that the expedition ship was full of excavated treasures and 
museum pieces, which we had discovered because we were the first to 
dig in the earth of the barren island. 

That evening, when Professor Pena came ashore for the second 
time, he went round with a radiogram in his hand. Several who had 
seen it came to me in dismay, telling me that it was from the Chilean 
Minister of Education, who was now authorizing Pena to confiscate 
the expedition's archaeological discoveries and take them back with 
him in the warship. The governor was extremely disturbed, the captain 


Meeting the Caves 9 Dumb Guardians 

was equally unhappy but had no power to intervene, and Father Se- 
bastian was completely bewildered. If indeed this was direct authority 
from the Minister of Education, no one on the island could stop Pefia. 
In that case the expedition would have to surrender every splinter of 
bone and every sample of charcoal which the archaeologists had labori- 
ously excavated in the past few months. 

Our despairing Chilean friends promised to do all they could to 
clear up the matter, and it was decided to have a meeting with Professor 
Peiia at Father Sebastian's. Everyone sincerely hoped that the affair 
would be settled in such a way that the expedition material would not 
be confiscated. 

In the meantime the news had spread to the natives. They came to 
me trembling with anger and assured me that they could do what they 
liked with their own property, no one could take from me what I had 
bought from them. Estevan and Lazarus in particular were in mortal 
fear for their cave stones. But Lazarus added that if I sought help from 
my a\u-a^i4, it was certain that no one could touch a thing on board 
my ship. The mayor was profoundly distressed and realized that it was 
all his fault. He would go straight to Pefia, he said, and explain that the 
only things of value I had taken on board the ship were personal prop- 
erty that I had bought from people in the village, and that I had looted 
nothing from the earth. 

"We can give or sell our own things to whom we like," said the 
mayor, and he went off looking for Peiia. 

In the meantime it was decided that the captain of the Pinto and 
his party would drive round in the jeep and inspect the work of the 
expedition throughout the island. Not until a few days later were we 
to meet at the conference which had been arranged. The Pinto was to 
remain for over a week. Gonzalo would conduct Pefia and the students 
on horseback round the island, and later, under the professional guid- 
ance of Bill, they were to begin their own excavation of an ancient 
reed-house site on the Tepeu Plain. 

Next day the sea was rough and the breakers thundered in toward 
the coast. The Pinto $ other passengers could not come ashore, and 
those who were ashore had to stay there. The marooned passengers 


sought out Father Sebastian, of whom they had all heard as a legendary 
personality, the uncrowned king of the island. At last Father Sebastian 
grew so tired of questions and posing for pictures that he came to ask 
me if we could not go out .to our ship. There we could sit by ourselves 
undisturbed by this swarm of people. Father Sebastian was not wor- 
ried about the surf so long as someone who knew the reefs would take 
us out. Down at the pier, where steep breakers came frothing in one 
after another, the mayor stood with a sad face and asked humbly if he 
might come too. He must speak to me now. 

"Don Pedro may come with us," Father Sebastian said kindly, and 
crawled on board the dancing launch, with a helping hand from the 

On board the ship the others had finished dinner, so the steward 
laid a cold smorgasbord for Father Sebastian, the mayor, the skipper, 
and me. Father Sebastian loved good food, and a smorgasbord with 
beer was the best thing he knew. I too have an excellent appetite and 
count a good meal among the great material pleasures of life; and in 
the two guests now on board I had the most congenial company. They 
ate and ate, till they were in a regular glow, while the ship rolled slowly 
in the swell, to and fro, to and fro. 

We had canned beer on board, and Father Sebastian gave a friendly 
nod as a sign that the mayor might have a can too; we both knew that 
he could now buy wine from the Pinto. The mayor was overjoyed and 
went on eating and filling his glass from the can. But Father Sebastian 
was beginning to chew more slowly; then he smiled awkwardly and 
asked us to excuse him. The swell was rather heavier than he had 
thought. The skipper went out with him to the rail to get a breath of 
fresh air. The mayor, quite unaffected, went on to consume another 
helping of the good things from the table. 

As soon as we were alone, he leaned toward me munching and 
began to talk of a{u-a{u. I need not be afraid of anyone taking any- 
thing from me. Why, our combined afyi-a^us had held back that great 
warship out there for a whole day. I picked up the thread and whispered 
that my a{u-a{u had now revealed to me what the mayor had hidden 
in his secret cave, in addition to the mot(o he had told me about. I de- 


Meeting the Caves' Dumb Guardians 

scribed in the most cautious terms the appearance of some of the cave 
stones which had proved to be common to both Estevan's and Lazarus' 
caves. I assumed that features common to both of them were likely to 
be found in the mayor's cave also. 

The mayor stiffened in his chair and forgot to munch. Had my 
a\u-al{u been in his secret cave? He had to admit that I was right, and 
went on chewing feverishly while questioning me to determine what 
else I had found out. I told him I had not asked my a{u-afa about 
anything more, for now I counted on the mayor being willing to show 
me the cave himself, before he sailed with the Pinto. That calmed him 
down and he said no more, only ate. 

The steward came and refilled the dishes. The mayor loaded his 
plate afresh, and devoted himself once more to the unaccustomed joys 
of the smorgasbord. He lifted the beer can and looked at me sadly. It 
was empty, and so were all the other cans. I had just decided to go out 
and ask Father Sebastian how he was, when I saw the steward had put 
down a newly opened can of beer on an oil drum beside the door. In 
one action I stepped over the coaming on my way out, grabbed the new 
can, leaned back to place it before the voraciously eating mayor, and 
tossed the empty one into the sea as I proceeded onto the deck. 

While I was standing at the rail talking to Father Sebastian, who 
felt better in the breeze, we suddenly heard a terrified bellow from the 
mayor. I was at the door in a trice: there he sat as though transfixed 
to the bulkhead, pointing to the beer can, his face convulsed and his 
eyes popping out of his head! 

"Who put it there? Who put it there?" he yelled like a madman. 
It occurred to me that there might have been something wrong with 
the can, some had fermented, and perhaps the mayor thought we were 
trying to poison him. I smelled it. 

"Who put it there? All the cans were empty when you went out," 
he continued, as hysterically as if he were surrounded by spirits. I sud- 
denly realized that he might not have seen me make the exchange. 

"Has no one been here since I went out?" I asked cautiously. 

"No! not a soul!" 

"Well, then it must have been my a{u-a{u" 


The mayor did not doubt it for a moment. He had never seen such 
an a\u-a\u: he looked quite enviously at me, the owner of an invisible 
servant who could fetch beer whenever I wanted some. He slowly 
calmed down and went on eating, keeping a sharp lookout for any 
more mysterious happenings. Then he had had enough. After wrapping 
the last pat of butter in his paper napkin and putting it in his pocket, 
he went to join the rest outside. The skipper had weighed anchor and 
was carefully moving the ship closer under land, where a tiny cape 
gave us more shelter. 

The episode with the beer can had made a greater impression on the 
mayor than the stone whales and everything else he had seen till then. 
Again on shore late in the afternoon he took me aside and whispered 
that his own afa-afa was now begging him to go to the cave and fetch 
something for me. He too wanted to do it, but he must get his grand- 
mother's consent first. I had no idea that he had a grandmother, and 
asked where she was. 

"Up there, above Hanga Piko, close to the road and under a block 
of cement," he replied. 

I started, and for a fraction of a second I had a vision of an old 
woman sprawling helplessly under something which had been over- 
turned, but then I realized that she was dead and had been buried up 
there. The mayor confided to me in a whisper that he could not ask 
her in the daytime or by moonlight: it must be pitch-dark. He was 
going to ask her tonight, and if she agreed, he would go to the cave 
as his aJ(u-af(u proposed. 

Next day we weighed anchor and returned to the camp at Anakena, 
while the Pinto began to unload. Gonzalo set out on his tour with 
Professor Pefia and the students, and the archaeologists of our expedi- 
tion, who now had no diggers, were at their posts and showed the 
visitors around the excavations. These were sociable days, with dinner 
for us on board the Pinto, and for the captain and his staff at the gov- 
ernor's, and later with us at Anakena. When Pefia and the students 
reached the camp on horseback, there was another lively party, and they 
stayed the night with us. One of the students was a Bolivian archaeolo- 
gist, and his enthusiasm knew no bounds when he saw the red pillar 


Meeting the Caves' Dumb Guardians 

statue at Vinapu and the kneeling giant at Rano Raraku. He had dug 
at Tiahuanaco himself and immediately recognized both these types 
from his own country. 

Pena was in the highest of spirits. He was wildly excited over all 
that he had seen, but he whispered to me that unfortunately he had a 
"disagreeable mission/' He had been looking for me in vain to arrange 
a meeting in connection with a very unpleasant telegram. I told him 
that the meeting was already arranged, and we remained as friendly 
as ever. 

A couple of days later I had a message from the mayor asking me 
to send the jeep over to the village to fetch "a heavy sack with impor- 
tant objects." The skipper drove over; he was going anyhow to pick 
up the nuns who were to sail in the Pinto and were anxious before they 
left to see the statue which the mayor had almost set up. When the 
jeep came bumping back, fully loaded with nuns and a priest from the 
Pinto, the mayor and Lazarus, with queer poker faces, were sitting 
on the top of a large mysterious-looking sack in the back of the vehicle. 
While the others were taken sight-seeing, the two natives came into 
my tent with the sack between them. The mayor had cracked at last. 
He had been to the cave "with his own grandmother," and was so pro- 
foundly agitated that he seemed almost irritable. Lazarus, on the other 
hand, was obviously relieved: I felt that he breathed more freely now 
that he thought he was no longer the only man who had removed 
stones from a family cave. They had both been terrified when they had 
got the infernal sack into the jeep and the skipper had told them that 
he was going on to fetch the nuns. But all had gone smoothly: they had 
had "good luck." 

In the sack was a large parcel containing five stones: they came from 
Lazarus' second cave, which was at Vinapu: from this cave he was 
now bringing stones for the first time. All the other thirteen stones were 
from the mayor's own cave. They were the most exquisite sculptures I 
had yet seen on the island. One figure was a gaping, snarling dog's 
head with bared teeth and slanting eyes, so wild that it suggested a 
wolf or fox rather than a domesticated dog. It was a perfect piece of 
sculpture: I never grew tired of looking at it. There were also several 


dogs or doglikc animals; the length from the snout to the tail of one 
was so great that it would have resembled a crocodile but for its legs 
which held it clear of the ground. There was a crawling mol{o with a 
broad head, huge jaws, and a dentated ridge along its back, a genuine 
reproduction of a cayman. And there were birds and bird-men, and a 
very curious stone head. Lazarus' sculptures also represented queer fig- 
ures, and among them was a flat stone showing two copulating snakes 
carved in relief. 

In the natives' eyes I was bound to know all the answers, so I had 
to be extremely careful not to reveal that I was a complete outsider by 
asking stupid questions. But now I was so absorbed that I blurted out 
a question about the purpose of these stones. My friends too were so 
deeply engaged that my blunder raised no suspicion. 

"They give power to actual things,'* the mayor whispered eagerly. 
He produced a very realistic sculpture of a lobster, or to be more cor- 
rect, a Pacific langouste, with its legs curved under as in nature and its 
feelers stretched flat along its back. 

"This gives power to the lobster, so that they multiply along the 


Then he pointed to the two snakes and explained that double figures 
gave double power. I knew that the snake was completely unknown 
throughout this part of Polynesia, and to try them I asked if this one 
gave double power to the "eel." But this did not work. These were not 
eels, they said, for the eel had no slender neck behind its broad head 
as these two had. These were land creatures similar to what the Chileans 
called a culebra. A gigantic one of the same kind was carved in the 
rock on the way to the Hanga-o-Teo Valley. 

I suddenly remembered that Father Sebastian had once told me this, 
and had asked me to go and look at it with the archaeologists. Eroria 
knew where the place was, but so far I had not managed to make 
the trip. 

Lazarus observed with pride and satisfaction that this was the first 
time anyone had talked openly with anyone else about things like 
these. He had admitted first to the mayor that he had been in his cave 
several times to get figures for me, and then the mayor had said that 


Meeting the Caves 9 Dumb Guardians 

he had decided to do the same. They had confided in one another, and 
found that much of what they had in their caves was common to 
them both. 

I knew that in Polynesia magical power had once been attributed to 
human hair, and this knowledge gave me another opportunity to im- 
press the mayor and Lazarus. Both of them said that they knew all 
about it. In fact the mayor kept locks of hair from all his dead relatives 
in a stone bowl in the cave, even from his little red-haired daughter. 
Then he made a fearful grimace, and shuddering, confided that there 
was also a head in the cave, a real head. There were masses of skulls 
in every possible hiding place on the island, so I realized that he did not 
mean a skull, and asked if he meant a stone head. Oh, no, this was a 
regular head, a human head, he added, shuddering afresh, as he pulled 
his hair. Could he have a mummified head in the cave, as on some of 
the other Polynesian islands? 

Lazarus admitted that there were neither hair nor heads in the two 
of his family caves in which he had been: there were only skulls and 
bones of his own forefathers. 

The mayor confided to me that there must be at least fifteen family 
caves on the island which were still in use, and many, many more which 
had been lost. To the best of his knowledge it was only the descendants 
of long-ears, and people who had some long-ear blood in them, who 
had such caves. He did not think that genuine short-ears had caves. He 
had inherited his own most important cave in a direct line from Oro- 
roina. He had taken over the cave on the death of his father, to whom 
it had been handed down from his ancestors going right back to the 
war eleven generations ago, when Ororoina and the other long-ears had 
hidden all their treasures in secret caves so as not to be robbed by the 
short-ears. From the age of five he had worked to learn family tradition 
from his elders, but his father had found him unworthy of seeing any- 
thing till he was fifteen. Then he was allowed to accompany him to a 
point near the cave, where he waited while his father entered it to 
fetch some special objects which the boy was allowed to see. That had 
been the practice for eleven generations. 

The mayor paused. Then he said: "This is the first time I have told 


this to anyone. But afterward, before I went through the cave's en- 
trance, my father cut a lock of hair from my head." 

He plucked at the hair on the top of his head, and Lazarus followed 
his least movement so intently that I realized this was as new to him 
as it was to me. The mayor went on to describe how his father had 
rolled up the lock of hair in part of a banana leaf, tied on the outside 
with string, in which eleven knots were made. Then his father took the 
little parcel into the cave to a stone bowl on which another stone bowl 
served as lid. All the ordinary family hair lay in another bowl beside 
it, but in this special bowl there were until now only ten small packets 
of hair, most of them red. The first had one knot and belonged to 
Ororoina, the second had two knots and belonged to Ororoina's son, 
and so on down to one with ten knots which belonged to the mayor's 
own father. Now the last, his own with eleven knots, was added. 

After his hair had been placed in the bowl, his father returned and 
a ceremony was held in honor of the a\u-a\u who was guardian of the 
place. The a\u-al(u was now told that another person was properly 
authorized to enter. And then he learned for the first time the secret 
of the cave's entrance and was allowed to go in and see Ororoina's own 

For a whole generation he alone had possessed the ancient secret, 
but now a problem with serious bearing on the future had arisen. His 
own red-haired son Juan was a child of his time who no longer under- 
stood the old ways. He was grown-up and married, but nevertheless 
he could not be relied on in such serious and secret matters. If Juan 
found out where the opening was, he would be tempted to make him- 
self a very rich man by selling the contents of the cave to the first ship 
that came by. The mayor added sadly that he might therefore be com- 
pelled in time to let the cave go to his youngest brother Atan Atan, 
who had respect for the teachings of their forefathers. 

We were expecting guests from the warship to dinner, and I had 

to break off our conversation. The mayor concluded by emphasizing 

that he and Lazarus and I were now united as brothers, and it was the 

same with our aty-atys, which were present at that very moment. 

"Mine's there," the mayor said merrily, pointing down at his left 


Meeting the Caves 9 Dumb Guardians 

side to a spot on a level with his own knee. We all left the tent in a 
crowd, presumably with the a\u-a\u$ toddling between our legs 
unless the invisible little things went straight through the tent walls, 
for these a\u-al(us have their own ways of getting about. The mayor 
had told me that his own could travel to Chile and back in the course 
of two minutes. 

After dinner I accompanied our Chilean guests back to the village, 
as we were to have the meeting with Professor Peiia in Father Sebas- 
tian's house. Father Sebastian himself was in bed with a fever, but his 
little study was made available and was more than crowded when all 
who were to take part in the proceedings were seated. 

The captain from the warship presided, as he was now the highest 
authority on the island. Like the governor himself, he too was most 
favorably disposed to our case, especially since he had seen the work of 
the archaeologists. He now wanted to radio the supreme command of 
the Chilean Navy and try to get us permission to take a whole statue 
away from the island. He knew that we had applied earlier and been 
refused because the statues were protected monuments, but he had seen 
himself that we had brought to light formerly unknown statues, and 
that there would thus be more statues when we left than when we came. 

Beside the captain and his adjutant sat the governor, Professor Wil- 
helm, Professor Peiia, and a student; then there was Gonzalo as the 
expedition's official liaison officer, Ed, and myself. 

Peiia opened the proceedings by expressing gratitude and admira- 
tion for the expedition's work on the island. And then he regretfully 
produced his authority to confiscate all our archaeological material. 

Professor Wilhelm, who was an anthropologist of international 
reputation, rose immediately and defended our case. He explained that 
it would be impossible for the archaeologists of the expedition to com- 
plete their work if they could not take their own scientific discov- 
eries with them to their laboratories. And why, he asked, had nobody 
mentioned this before? Heyerdahl himself had been in Chile to settle 
all problems before the expedition came to Easter Island to dig. 

Pefia admitted this, but said the whole thing was due to a deplor- 
able blunder in the administration. The Foreign Department had given 


the permission, although the decision lay with the Department of 

I put in that I had also been to the Minister for Education in per- 
son. He had been extremely kind and told me to let him know if I came 
up against any problems and needed his help. 

Wilhelm hastened to emphasize that everyone wanted to help, it 
was only a matter of finding a legal way of doing so. And that could 
be done, for he himself had been on the committee which had drafted 
the law in question, and there was a loophole in it. 

Then Pena's student quickly rose and asked if he might speak. 
He declared that the lack of Easter Island material in Chilean museums 
made this confiscation necessary. "No country has so little from Easter 
Island as we who own the island," he assured us, and Pena nodded. 

I replied, with support from Ed and Gonzalo, that the excavations 
had brought to light the monuments and ruins which they had all 
seen for themselves. These findings we had merely exposed and partly 
reconstructed. What we had otherwise excavated were primarily bones 
and charcoal and fragments of old stone tools which were of little 
value to a museum, but indispensable to our further archaeological 
study of the island's ancient history. All we had found would be later 
recorded in our scientific report; what was not included there would be 
of no value; and anyone thus could control our archaeological findings. 
I therefore proposed that we should be allowed to take with us every- 
thing we had excavated that was not a monument, and let representa- 
tives of Chile choose what they liked from the collection after the 
studies had been completed and the report published. 

Both Pena and the student seized upon this. Some such arrangement 
was just what they had in mind, and the better now that it came as an 
offer from me. 

I added that although we had found no portable museum treasures 
in the earth, the natives themselves had brought me many curious fig- 
ures which they claimed were their personal property, 

"What the natives have brought you does not interest us," said Pena, 
"unless " he leaned toward me smiling slyly "unless they have 
brought you a rongo-rongo" 


Meeting the Caves 9 Dumb Guardians 

"No, I haven't got a rongo-rongo" I said, "but they have brought me 
a lot of other things." 

"That does not interest me/* said Pefia. "I haven't come here as a 
customs official. The things you have bought from the natives we could 
all have bought. What concerns us is what you yourself have found in 
the earth, for no one has dug here before you." 

Thereupon an agreement was drawn up by which I was merely de- 
prived of permanent ownership of the archaeological material the ex- 
pedition itself had found in the earth. I invited Peiia to inspect all the 
expedition's material, both what we had found ourselves and what we 
had bought or had been given, and the meeting was then closed. While 
the others remained to make a copy of the agreement, I went out into 
the darkness where the skipper and chief engineer were waiting in the 
jeep. As I crept into my seat I gave a start. There was a strange black 
shadow standing motionless in the dark beside me. It was Lazarus. I 
whispered to him that all had gone splendidly, but he quickly inter- 
rupted me: 

"I know. I was standing at the window and listened to everything. 
If the fat little man had said that he would take anything from you, I'd 
have run to the mayor and we should have been back with two hundred 

I thanked Providence for my own sake and Pena's that we had come 
to a friendly understanding, and I tried to explain to Lazarus that he 
must never think of doing such a thing. Farther along the road we met 
the mayor, visibly nervous, standing outside his garden gate. 

"Take it easy, take it easy," he said soothingly, as if he thought we 
were as agitated as he. 
"What happened?" he then asked eagerly. 

When he heard that they were not going to take from me as much 
as a single moai-l(ava-1{ava 9 he straightened up and threw out his chest. 
"Ha!" he said triumphantly, thumping his chest briskly. "Our com- 
bined al(u-al(iis\ n 

Then he tactfully begged the skipper and engineer to remain in the 
jeep: he had a few words to say to Lazarus and me inside the house. 

His living room was furnished with one round table, three chairs, 


and a corner cupboard. He turned up the kerosene lamp and produced 
a newly bought bottle of wine, from which he filled three glasses. The 
mayor had a plan. Lazarus was to keep the two in the jeep company, 
while the mayor took me to see his grandmother. He wanted to ask 
her if I might go with him into the cave. After pouring a little of the 
wine on our fingers and rubbing it in our hair for "good luck," we 
drank toasts with the rest. 

The night was moonless and dark as we strolled out to the others 
with our hair smelling of wine. We drove on in the jeep to the cross- 
roads by the governor's bungalow, then turned a short way down the 
road toward the little jetty, stopped and turned oflf our lights. Only the 
stars twinkled above us. Some native riders passed, and I could barely 
make them out although the horses' hoofs clattered by quite close to 
the open jeep. When they had gone, the mayor explained that he and I 
were going up the hill to study the stars, and both the skipper and the 
engineer pretended to believe him. 

I followed close on the mayor's heels for some distance to the right 
of the road till we caught sight of something which in the dark looked 
like the remains of a stone wall. Here he stopped and whispered that 
on the other side of the stones he would not be able to say another word 
to me, only to make signs* 

He stole on in silence for another fifty yards, and I followed cau- 
tiously, hard on his heels. We came to something which looked like an 
irregular, flat, whitish stone: it could quite well have been a slab of 
concrete on the ground, it was too dark for me to see it properly. Here 
the mayor stopped dead. He pointed to the ground in front of him, 
made a tremendously deep bow, and stretched out both arms before him 
with the palms of the hands turned downward. I gathered that he ex- 
pected me to do the same, so I moved beside him and repeated the bow. 
Then, tiptoeing noiselessly, he made a full circle round the light patch 
on the ground. I followed close behind him and could just make out 
that a regular path had been worn round the spot. When we had made 
the circuit, we both bowed deeply again, with our arms outstretched as 
before. This was repeated three times, then he drew himself up silently 
and stood as a silhouette against the starry sky, with his arms folded. I 


Meeting the Caves 9 Dumb Guardians 

did exactly the same. In the background I saw the lights of the great 
warship lying off the coast. 

I was now really shaken by what I found myself involved in. This 
was no longer Easter Island: it was as though I were witnessing a 
heathen ceremony in some unexplored country a hundred years ago. 
And yet I knew that the motionless silhouette beside me belonged to 
the peaceable mayor of the island, who in daily life had a little well- 
trimmed mustache, and at the moment was actually wearing one of my 
ties. He did not move, he said nothing, but stood as if concentrating on 
remote matters. We should never get anywhere with this unless my 
own at{u-af{u came to the rescue and negotiated a reasonable concession 
from the obstinate grandmother. I opened my mouth and muttered a 
few words. I should never have done this. 

"That's all, there she went!" said the mayor, and suddenly dashed of? 
at great speed. I followed as quickly as I could, trying not to lose sight 
of him altogether. He stopped a little way down the hill beyond the 
stones and stood breathing heavily. 

"She said yes/' I said. 

"She said no," he said, and repeated what he had so often told me, 
that his own a\u-a\u said yes, yes. He took a box of matches out of his 
pocket and emptied the whole of the contents into one of his hands. 

"You're to empty your cave like this for Senor Kon-Tiki, my a\u-a\u 
says, but my grandmother says no, no." 

He had asked her three times, and she just said no. But now she had 
said that he was to go to the mainland in the Pinto, and when he came 
back he was to present one of the caves to Senor Kon-Tiki, complete, 
with everything that was in it. 

We stood for some time discussing what his grandmother had actu- 
ally said, and at last he agreed to ask her once more, but alone, on 
another night. There were not many days left, however, before the 
Pinto sailed. 

Two days later I stopped the jeep outside the mayor's garden gate. 
I had heard nothing at all from him. I found him and Lazarus over a 
bottle of wine in the little room with the round table. The mayor hast- 
ened to assure me that this was a lucky day for Lazarus, for he had 


said that he would show me one of his caves two days before the expe- 
dition left the island. But for the mayor it was an unlucky day. His 
grandmother still said no; moreover his own brothers were sure that he 
would die if he took me to the cave, and since he was their chief, he 
must not die. On top of this, all the natives had gone on strike. They 
would not unload the Pinto unless they received higher wages, and the 
mayor had just been told that if he did not succeed in stopping the 
strike, he would not be allowed to travel in the Pinto on her voyage to 
the mainland. 

The strike continued and spread to the Navy's sheep farm, where 
no one was any longer looking after the windmills which served to 
pump the brackish water up from ancient native wells for tens of thou- 
sands of sheep. The Pinto 's sailing was delayed. 

Meanwhile the Chileans did everything they could for the expedition. 
Professor Wilhelm saved the expedition's valuable blood samples by re- 
plenishing a very special preserving fluid. It had run out when the heat 
had forced the rubber corks out of the doctor's test tubes. The Pinto 's 
radar experts rejuvenated our radar, which had suddenly broken down 
after excellent service. And our engineer and steward were able to solve 
many of their problems through fresh supplies from helpful colleagues 
on board the great warship. They reported that everything should now 
go without a hitch for another six months. In spite of the strike the 
launch came in regularly from the Pinto with flour and sugar, and 
large bales of wool were loaded by the Chilean sailors. Finally the sail- 
ing date was fixed. 

The day before the Pinto sailed we brought our ship round once 
more from Anakena to anchor alongside the warship. Pefia came with 
us on this trip to inspect the archaeologists' cases on deck. As soon as he 
came on board I took him into my cabin and gave him an envelope. 
It contained a detailed report to the Minister of Education of the results 
secured by the expedition up to the Pinto 9 s arrival. Pefia himself was 
given a copy in an open envelope, and I asked him to read it. In the 
report I also described in detail the different types of curious cave stones 
I had received, and which the natives declared to be inherited property 
kept hidden in secret family caves. Pena asked if I myself had seen such 


Meeting the Caves' Dumb Guardians 

a cave. I said I had not, but that I expected to be taken to one after the 
warship had sailed. This did not interest Pena, but he thanked me for 
the report, and asked to be shown the cases containing the things the 
archaeologists had found through excavation. 

We went down to the foredeck where the first officer had assembled 
all the archaeologists' cases. When we had opened two, and Pena saw 
that these contained only plastic bags of charcoal and burned and 
crushed fragments of bone, he had no wish to see any more. It was with 
great reluctance that he consented to come to the shelves in my private 
storeroom to look at the cartons containing what the natives had 
brought me. The Pinto was to leave the island next day, so I knew that 
there was no longer much danger of anyone talking carelessly in the 
village. I took out a sculpture of a grotesque head with terrifying open 
jaws. Pena started, and he excitedly grabbed the stone from my hands. 
He had never seen anything like it from Easter Island. Had we found 
any sculptures like that in the earth as well? 

We had not. I told him it was always the natives themselves who 
brought me figures of this type. 

Pena lost all interest at once and laid the gaping head back in the 
carton. He looked admiringly at a large wooden moai-T{ava-\ava 9 and 
recognized the mayor's work. He regretted the strike which had now 
prevented that able wood carver from making the voyage to the main- 
land, for he felt that the mayor could have given him more interesting 
information than most people on the island. 

Now, on no account would Pena inspect anything more; this did 
not concern him. 

In the meantime we had anchored alongside the warship, and the 
captain and all our friends from the Pinto came over in the launch to 
say good-by. While I was standing talking to Pena, his assistant and 
two other students approached us. I stood them in front of me cere- 
moniously, and declared with emphasis that they must listen to me now 
and never forget what I was to say. Then I told them that there were 
natives on that island who possessed important secrets. 
"The Pakarati brothers/' someone quickly put in. 
"Perhaps. But also the mayor and many others," I said. I told them 


that the secrets consisted of superstitious customs which were likely 
soon to disappear. Moreover, I was quite certain that the inhabitants of 
the island knew the entrances to secret caves containing small sculp- 
tures, although I myself had not yet been allowed to enter such caves. 

One of the students interrupted me, saying that I must not pay too 
much attention to the natives' boasting or to their crazy legends; an- 
other said with a knowing smile that the natives were masters in mak- 
ing imitations. 

I asked them again to remember what I had said : there were secret 
caves containing sculptures, and I should do all I could to get into one, 
but if I did not succeed before I sailed, it was their duty to see that an 
ethnologist was sent to the island as soon as possible to carry on where 
I had left off. 

Peiia clapped me on the shoulder, laughing indulgently. He had 
offered the natives 100,000 pesos, or 150 dollars, if they would get him a 
rongo-rongo, but it had done no good. One of the students put in that if 
the Pinto had only stayed another five days longer he would have got a 
rongo-rongo from a secret cave. 

Soon the ship was full of visitors both from the Pinto and from the 
the village, and no more was said on the subject. Now I had laid all my 
cards on the table, and they could believe what they liked. 

The Pinto sailed the next afternoon. On board her was our frogman, 
who had dived to forbidden depths in his spare time and split his ear- 
drums. It was sad to see one of our own party go, but his place was 
filled by a splendid young Chilean student who had come out with the 
others in the Pinto. Eduardo Sanchez had studied archaeology in Chile 
and was now to join the expedition as assistant on shore and seaman 
on board. Gonzalo and he were old friends, and we could not have 
found a better expedition member. 

We followed the big gray ship a little astern on her port side for the 
whole length of the island. We had many friends now among those 
in charge on the bridge and the waving crowd that was closely packed 
on her wide afterdcck. As the sun went down, we bade her farewell 
with siren and flags. The little Greenland trawler turned off along the 
dark cliffs of the coast, and the warship glided on into sinister, violet 


Meeting the Caves 9 Dumb Guardians 

evening clouds which lay ahead of it in the east like the smoke of a 
fallen shell. Behind us all, on the opposite horizon, a glowing sun sank 
into the sea like a gun letting out its last burst of fire. So we were once 
more left alone in the night with the strange little island. Its living pop- 
ulation was going to bed in the village on the other side, while on this 
side only an a^u-af^u or two sat keeping watch over mystic stones on the 
dark mountain shelves. Far away came a faint glimmer of light from 
our own camp guard at Anakena. 

When the Pinto' s last light disappeared, the ship itself passed away 
into unreality. The outer world does not exist for the natives of Easter 
Island except when it comes into their ocean for a visit. Many are at- 
tracted by stories of Tahiti's green palms and Chile's great houses, but 
life beyond the horizon, like life after dea\h, is something remote and 
unreal which takes place far beyond the blue vault of heaven. To its 
native population Easter Island is the "Navel of the World" and the 
center of the universe. The cord of birth binds them to this lonely rock 
in the ocean. To them even great countries like Chile, the United States, 
Norway, and Tahiti are either located to the east or to the west. But 
Easter Island is located right here, at the intersection of east and west, 
and north and south that is, the real center of the world. 

When the Pinto had gone, life on the island quickly fell back into 
normal grooves. The cocongo had not yet begun to spread in earnest. 
Cocongo was the natives' great terror the annual influenza epidemic 
which always accompanied contact with the mainland. It came and 
went with the regularity of clockwork. After the ship's visit it always 
raged in the village for a month or two. It got into chests, heads, and 
stomachs; everyone was ill, and there was always a toll of human lives 
before the cocongo passed and left the people in peace for the rest of the 
year. But this year the epidemic was unusually mild so far. The natives 
found their explanation at once: the expedition ship had brought the 
island "good luck." That, of course, was the reason why no one had 
fallen ill when we ourselves had come to the island. 

The governor and Father Sebastian sent our native workers back to 
us, and at last the statue rose onto its ahu. Ed returned to the rim 


at Orongo, where he had made a number of new finds before the 
Pinto came. When he dug out a small and badly executed ahu of the 
second epoch, which was beside the bird-men's ruined village, he had 
discovered that it was built above the ruins of an older building with 
beautiful stones cut in the classic Inca-like style characteristic of the 
earliest Easter Island period. He had the turf removed for a long way in 
front, and found that a series of stones had been placed in rows, con- 
necting the newly discovered first-epoch masonry with the smiling head 
he had found previously. Round about, on all the stones, carvings of 
large circular eyes stared at him like typical sun symbols; and when, in 
the middle of the whole complex, Ed also discovered a curious system 
of holes bored in the rock, he became suspicious. 

December 21 was the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, 
and before the sun rose that day he and the skipper were standing ready 
with a rod thrust into one of the holes. When the sun rose over the 
crater rim on the opposite side of the giant caldron, a sharp shadow 
from the rod fell right into the hole where Ed had expected it. He had 
thus discovered the first ceremonial solar observatory known in Poly- 
nesia. The governor promised to be on the spot at sunrise on the day of 
the winter solstice, for the expedition would be gone by then. Ed 
pointed out the hole into which he then expected the shadow to fall, and 
when the time came and the governor was on the spot, the shadow did 
fall exactly according to expectations. 

At the summer solstice Bill too took his stand, but with surveying 
instruments down on the great classical ahu he had excavated at Vinapu. 
The sun struck exactly at a right angle to the mighty Inca-style wall. 
The Incas and their predecessors in Peru were sun worshipers, and once 
again these new observations recalled to our minds the old cultures of 
South America. And Bill discovered something more. The level ground 
where the red pillar statue had been excavated was a gigantic sunken 
temple square about four hundred by five hundred feet, and formerly 
surrounded by an earth wall which could still be clearly seen. Charcoal 
from a man-made fire was found underneath the earthen wall, which 
laboratory analysis, through carbon-i4 testing, dated at about 800 A.D. 
The corresponding red pillar statue at Tiahuanaco also lay in a similiar 


Meeting the Caves' Dumb Guardians 

rectangular, sunken temple square. And in front of the great stone wall 
Bill found the remains of an ancient crematorium in which a great 
number of bodies had been burned and buried, some of them with 
their own bone fishing gear. Cremation had till now been completely 
unknown in Easter Island archaeology. 

Carl went about mapping and studying old stone constructions. In 
the ah it of Te Pito Kura, where the largest statue on the coast lay over- 
thrown, he excavated a small burial vault in the elaborate wall. Among 
crumbled human bones he found two of the long-ears' extremely beau- 
tiful ear pegs, made from the thickest part of some very large shell. 

Arne had several teams at work, and had made interesting discov- 
eries both inside and outside the crater of Rano Raraku. Now he had 
started a trench through one of the round hillocks which lay at the foot 
of the volcano. They were so large that the natives had given them place 
names of their own; and science had hitherto regarded them as natural 
formations. We were now to see that all these hillocks had been arti- 
ficially formed. They were rubble from the quarry which had been 
carried down in large baskets and dumped on the plain, and here good 
fortune gave us the only conceivable means of scientifically dating the 
making of the statues. As we cut our way down through the hillock, 
we found broken stone picks and charcoal from fires. Again the char- 
coal could be dated by measuring its radioactivity, and we learned that 
this particular pile received rubble from the sculptors in the quarry 
until about 1470, or two hundred years before the fatal defensive fire 
was lighted in the long-ears' ditch on Poike. 

As work was resumed on various parts of the island after the Pinto 
had gone, the chief of the long-ears sat calmly on his front steps pol- 
ishing the hooked nose of a wooden figure. With the aid of his motto, 
"Take it easy," he did not worry much about the sudden collapse of his 
dream of travel. The governor let me promise him instead that he 
should accompany us to Tahiti, Hiva Oa, and Panama when we our- 
selves left the island, and this made the mayor the happiest man in the 
world. This was indeed a sign of "good luck." 

He visited his grandmother again with fresh courage, silent and 
alone, but she was stubborn as ever. That night he was continually 


awakened and finally kept awake altogether because his own a 
would give him no peace. It kept on repeating, "Go into the cave, go 
into the cave. 1 ' At last he could stand it no more: he rose and went into 
the cave. He had not seen a soul on the way, and had not once needed 
to take cover. When a man was going to his cave this was a sign of 
"good luck." When he had passed through the opening, he had grabbed 
the figure of an animal's head with long teeth, but the a\u-a1(u had 
said, "Take more, take more," and he finally brought a quantity of 
sculptures out of the cave. These were now waiting in his hut in the 
village. I must send the jeep as soon as it was dark. 

This time the queerest animals were there to greet me. One which 
continually recurred had a long raised neck and a snout with three 
front teeth above and three below, its jaws being otherwise toothless. 
But the prize specimen was a broad reed boat, shaped like an ark, but 
curved and rounded in all corners. Three masts and thick grooved sails 
of stone were placed in holes along a bulging deck. It looked like a 
baker's masterpiece, made of dried lava instead of dough. 

"Now you see how I knew that the sails also were made from reeds," 
said the mayor proudly, pointing to the perpendicular grooves which 
gave the illusion of reeds. 

That day I noticed that the mayor for the first time had begun to 
clear his throat: the cocongo was knocking at his door. As long as he 
had the suspicion of a cough, he said, he could not visit the cave again, 
for it was "bad luck" for anyone who was not quite well to enter such 
a place. A few old people had done so in the past, but it was purposely 
to hide there and die. 

Soon afterward a storm broke out and the skipper had to take the 
ship to shelter by moving round to the village side of the island for a 
couple of days. When the storm abated and the ship returned to her 
old anchorage off our beach, I heard through the walkie-talkie that the 
skipper had with him a native from the village who insisted on showing 
me something he had with him on board. 

I went out in the launch and found that the native was my young 
friend Estevan. The lad obviously had something on his mind. Today 
there was a boyish happiness about his smile which had been absent of 


Meeting the Caves' Dumb Guardians 

late, since his wife had suddenly stopped the cave traffic. He asked po- 
litely but eagerly if I had a really dark place on board the ship, for he 
was now going to initiate me into a great secret. I took him to my own 
cabin and pulled down the blinds. This was dark enough for Estevan. 
He disappeared and came back lugging two large bundles. He care- 
fully shut the cabin door behind him and asked me to stand in one 
corner and just watch what was going to happen. 

It was so dark in the cabin that I could barely distinguish Estevan 
as a dim shadow when he bent over something he had drawn out of 
the bundles. My first thought was that some phosphorescent object 
would appear, as he had to have the cabin so dark. But no. What he 
took out was as black as the darkness round us. I could make out that 
it was some sort of a costume he was putting on himself. He even put 
something on his head. So he was going to perform in a dancing mask 
or some other disguise. I was sure I could see two great ear flaps 
dangling down beside his head, but it was too dark to be certain. Now 
he stooped down again and pulled two heavy lumps out of his bundles. 
One of the objects he left on the floor, the other he laid on the seat 
beside my bunk. Then he squatted down and I could see that he placed 
a hand on each side of the object on the floor, as if he was about to 
enter upon a serious conversation with a dear friend. 

And then he began to murmur a stream of Polynesian words in a 
low and reverent voice. His voice was soft and melodious, but grave 
and uncannily intense, and I suddenly got a creeping feeling down my 
spine. A few seconds passed before I realized that the handsome young 
man was not at all carrying out a demonstration for me, he was busy 
performing a serious heathen ceremony. I saw that he was becoming 
more and more moved by the ritual. And when he had finished with 
the object on the floor and put his hands round the other on the seat, 
he became so emotional that the whole tone of his voice changed; he 
began to sniffle and gasp. It was impossible to hear what he was saying, 
but I gathered that I myself was mentioned several times. Toward the 
end he had increasing difficulty in suppressing his choking sobs, and at 
last he was weeping as bitterly as if he had lost a close friend forever. 

I was extremely uncomfortable. I felt an intense desire to talk to him 


and console him, and to find out what was going on. But I thought it 
wisest not to interfere for the time being. Finally Estevan pulled him- 
self together and began to take off his costume. He asked me to let in 
the light. When the blinds went up, Estevan stood before me with a 
grave smile on his face, his eyes red with weeping. I had to give him 
a handkerchief, which he needed for both his eyes and nose. But in 
spite of it all he seemed as happy as if he had come to the end of a 
bad dream. 

The clothes he had worn were a thick dark woolen jersey and a 
regular black polar cap with long hanging ear laps which he must have 
got from a passing whaler. On the floor sat a large red-stone dog, so 
thoroughly worn by scrubbing that it looked like a half-melted choco- 
late figure; and up on the seat there lay outstretched a diabolical crea- 
ture like Satan himself in the shape of a beast, with a humpback and a 
goatee beard under an evil grin. It was made of a harder gray stone 
and was perfectly preserved, in contrast to the overwashed figure on 
the floor. 

Estevan pointed reverently, almost affectionately, to the object on 
the seat and said that, according to his wife, it was the more powerful 
of the two. These were two of the four af(ti-a/(us who guarded his 
wife's cave. The other two, which were still in the cave, were large 
heads with strange figures on the top. It was these two guardians now 
lying before me who had been angry because his wife had taken so 
much from their section of the cave. She had been suffering from 
stomach trouble ever since, and she had now decided that the best thing 
to do was to send the two angry guardians over to me in the hope that 
they would be pacified when they recovered their sovereignty over their 
own stones. 

Estevan had with him five ordinary cave stones which belonged to 
the same group: one of them was a double-headed monster which 
looked much more terrifying than the innocent dog sitting quietly on 
the carpet in front of the bunk. There were several more figures in the 
cave which belonged to these two guardians: one was the big boat with 
figureheads fore and aft, of which he had told me before. Now they 
were to be mine. 


Meeting the Caves 9 Dumb Guardians 

I asked if I could not come to the cave myself to get these things, 
since they were going to be mine anyhow. Estevan suggested that we 
should make a joint effort to persuade his wife. I promised to pay them 
a visit in the village one evening, and said I would bring the doctor to 
find a remedy for her mysterious illness. 

Estevan then turned to his friends the dog and Old Nick on the 
seat, and emphatically declared that these two guardians were now 
legally transferred to me. He had done everything his wife had said 
he should do, for this was the way her father had acted when she took 
over the cave, and her grandfather had done just the same when 
handing it over to her father. Now the whole responsibility was on 
me, and when some day I should hand over the two guardians to an- 
other person, I must act exactly as he had done now, preferably in 
clothing which was not visible in the dark. I could show the guardians 
to anyone on board, but not to a single person on the island. I must 
wash them for the first time after three months, and from then on they 
should be attended to four times a year. It was not enough to wash 
them clean of dust and growths: I must carefully pick out some white 
webs which appeared like cotton in the holes of the stone, and every 
year I must smoke out insects which laid eggs in the pores. 

When the two guardians and their stone subjects had been packed 
away, a heavy responsibility seemed to have been lifted from Estevan's 
young shoulders. He gave me to understand that he himself was a good 
Christian, but his ancestors knew no better than to hold converse with 
devils and had bequeathed a fearful responsibility to those who had to 
take over the devils and could not escape from their whims. 

I asked Estevan if the two creatures he had given me were devils, 
and he had to admit that in Spanish that would be the name for them, 
even if his forefathers called them a^u-af^us. 

So now I had two af(u-af(us on board the ship. It was nice to know. 
Estevan gave me clearly to understand that if the decision lay with him 
I should get the two which were left in the cave as well, and all the 
others in the island. It would be best if every single a^u-a\u was put on 
board our ship and taken away from the island forever; then there 
would be no need to worry about such things again. For all the people 


on the island today were good Christians and would never have had 
anything to do with this business if it had not been forced upon them 
to the danger of their lives and health. 

Estevan had been to school, and he could write. In beautiful char- 
acters he wrote down for me what he had said in the dark, and ex- 
plained that I must hand on a similar text to the person who some day 
would take over the two guardians from me. I read on the scrap of 

Ko au Ko Kon Tity he Atua Hiva 

Hua vtri mat tc i Ka uru atua na Ki te 

Kaiga Einu Ehoraie Ehiti Ka pura Eurauraga 

te Mahinaee. Ka ea Korua Ka\ai Kahaf^a 

hoa ite umu moa ite umu f(pf(oma ote 

atua hit/a. 

Ko Kon Tifo mo hatu O Ko ia 

To Koro Va Ka Tere Ko haho Kogao Van 

one ana Kena O Te Atua hiva Ko Kon 

Estevan was unable to give the exact translation, for some of the 
phrases were old Polynesian; but the gist, he said, was that I, a lord from 
the outside world, had come from there to here with my party, and here 
I had caused the four a\u-a\us named Inu, Horaie, Hitikapura, and 
Urauraga-te-Mahinaee to eat the intestines of a cock baked in an 
earth oven before the entrance to the cave O Ko ia, while my ship lay 
swinging at anchor off the sands at Anakena. 

I realized that this business with the intestines must have been 
something Estevan and his wife had already attended to on my behalf. 

The doctor and I went to the village a couple of days later, and we 
slipped into Estevan's little hut unseen. A small table with a bowl full 
of flowers, together with two stools and two benches, made up the fur- 
nishings of the hut, and we guessed that there was a bed behind a 
curtain along one of the walls. Everything was painted white and light 
blue, and all was spotlessly clean. 

Estevan's wife came out from behind the curtain, and she turned 
out to be a real beauty. She was pale and well-shaped, with long black 


Meeting the Caves 9 Dumb Guardians 

hair, grave intelligent eyes, and a quiet, modest bearing. Completely 
poised, she came forward and greeted us, barefooted, with the dignity 
of a queen. She did not speak much Spanish, and Estevan helped when 
we had difficulty in understanding. They apologized for having no 
chairs, but we were happy to sit down on the benches. I looked at the 
quiet girl sitting erect with her hands in her lap. She was not the idea 
I had formed of Estevan's strong-willed wife; I had expected a regular 
amazon. She answered all the doctor's questions clearly and without 
hesitation. The consultation indicated that she had developed an ab- 
dominal trouble which would be simple to cure if she would go into 
the little village hospital for treatment. 

Estevan himself raised the matter of the cave. His wife's gentle 
answers to my questions were given as calmly as ever. Her father had 
said that if a stranger was let into the family cave some near relative 
of hers would die. She did not want to die, and she did not want any- 
thing to happen to Estevan. So she could not take me to the cave. She 
was completely inflexible on this point. Estevan added unhappily that 
the first time he had tried to persuade her, she had wept for two days 
and nights. And when I saw how desperately serious she was about 
the whole thing, I decided to drop the matter. 

I asked instead if she would take a photograph for us in the cave 
if we taught her how to do it. But no. If she did that, strangers could 
see the cave in the photograph, and it was the cave which was taboo. 

This was a real disappointment. Finally I asked, without much hope 
of consent, if she could bring the rest of the things in the cave to the 
house so that we could photograph them there. To my astonishment 
she agreed without a moment's hesitation. I was still more amazed 
when Estevan proposed to her that they should put all the stones in an 
ordinary cave they had in the garden, which had a secret entrance, 
but was not taboo. Then I could simply photograph everything there. 
His wife immediately agreed to that too, with two exceptions the two 
guardians which had to remain in the family cave. 

They looked quite crestfallen when I shook my head and explained 
that I did not care about the cave unless it was the actual family cave. 
We finally agreed that the contents of the cave should be brought to the 


house, and they would let me know when everything was there. 

As we were taking our leave, I asked if it was her father who had 
made the stones. Oh, no! He had only helped with a few of them. Her 
grandfather, who had received the name Raimundi Uki when Christi- 
anity was introduced, had made almost all of them before he died at 
the age of 108. She could remember him working to teach her father 
when she herself was quite a little girl. She had been told that her great- 
grandfather had originally helped her grandfather with "advice." When 
the cave was first brought into use she did not know, but some of the 
things were really old, even though the bulk of them went into the cave 
in her grandfather's time. 

We now knew that at least one of the strange caves on Easter Island 
had been a growing institution, part of the local life, and not a sealed- 
off chamber with treasures stored away since the island wars. The cave 
of Estevan's wife may have been the last on the island which had still 
been growing; and certainly it was the first to lose any of its contents 
to the outer world. But I realized, when the young couple let us out into 
the night, that this particular cave I would never see. 






along the old grassy road that led from the statue quarry 
in Rano Raraku to the camp at Anakena. Behind us the volcano glowed 
red in the evening sun, before us stretched the stone-covered plain on 
which the shadows were beginning to lengthen. The quiet of evening 
lay over sea and sky: all that met the eye breathed of peace. Only two 
grotesque caricatures of riders followed us in every slightest move- 
ment, our own long shadows. I felt once again as if Lazarus and I were 
riding alone on the moon. 

Then I stopped my horse and looked round to the right; the two 
shadows had suddenly become three. An unknown horseman had ap- 
peared close on our heels; lanky and pale, he sat on his horse and 
stared at us with as grave a mien as death himself. He stopped, as our 
shadows, the moment we stopped, without saying a word; but as soon 
as we jogged on, this third shadow followed us too. There was some- 
thing mysterious about the man and the whole of his demeanor. 


Lazarus muttered to me over the horses' bobbing heads that the 
man who was following us was the sexton's brother. The other day he 
had told Lazarus that if he got him a job with me he was willing to 
work without pay. This made the man even more mysterious: I had 
no desire to have this gloomy horseman among my nearest associates. 
I felt his eyes on the back of my neck. He did not overtake us if we 
slowed down, and if we quickened our pace, he did the same. Out of 
the corner of my eye I saw the gaunt, spidery shadow of him and his 
horse following us, mile after mile, right down to the camp, when 
night fell upon us. 

Lazarus did not think that the rider had heard what we were talk- 
ing about. I had said that some time in the future it would be possible 
to find the secret caves and tunnels of the island by going over the 
ground with a kind of cavity detector. This had made a strong im- 
pression on Lazarus. As we rode along he pointed out several areas in 
which such an apparatus would be effective because there were sup- 
posed to be secret caves under the ground, but the openings had been 
lost. He declared with dismay that the first person to bring the appa- 
ratus to the island would get rich simply by walking among the houses 
in the village. A secret cave three hundred yards long, which had be- 
longed to one of the last kings, ran underground to the sea from an 
unknown spot near the most northerly houses. It was found by a man 
who brought up from the cave some gigantic spearheads, but the a%u- 
a\U3 bit and pricked him night after night until he died. 

As soon as I came out of the tent next morning I saw the pale, 
skinny man again. He was lying motionless in the grass right outside 
my tent, gazing at me from the other side of the rope boundary. The 
policemen, Nicholas and Kasimiro, had long since ceased to keep 
watch, for no one touched a thing in the camp any more. All day I had 
the impression that the thin man was following me like a faithful dog, 
always at a distance and without having a word to say. 

When night fell again, and all the rest of us had gone to bed in 
the camp, I saw him sitting in the dark on the temple wall near my tent. 

There was a regular cloudburst over the island that night. The 
natives were delighted, for the water tanks in the village were bone-dry 


Into the Secret Caves 

and people had begun a laborious search for water in caves and up in 
the great crater swamp. Now the water poured down in streams, to 
them a sign of "good luck" right in the middle of the dry season. But 
for us in the tents it was not so fortunate. After the rain had stopped, 
a frothing chocolate-colored brook came rolling down the jeep track 
from the high ground and turned the camp area into a lake. 

I was awakened by Anette calling out excitedly in Polynesian, "Look, 
Mummy, look!" and pointing in delight to her potty, which had begun 
to bob about among the camp beds. I was less enthusiastic when I saw 
that the trunks and all our belongings were awash. Outside there was 
a whirling, gurgling stream, and I heard a beautiful mixture of laughter 
and swearing from the different tents. The roof of the kitchen tent had 
collapsed, the wind screens for the gas stoves were full as washtubs, 
and the food was afloat. The cook and steward stood unsheltered in a 
sticky mass of flour and sugar, striking the floor with an iron bar to 
make an outflow into the sand; the cameraman was piling films and 
equipment onto his bed; and the sailors were bailing out their tents 
with mugs and buckets as if they were on a sinking ship. 

We quickly diverted the rest of the flood by making a ditch and 
a dam across the roadway. Amid all this chaos the long-ears came over 
jubilant from their dry cave to congratulate me: this was "good luck"! 
Now there would be water enough on the island for both man and 
beast for a long time to come. The skipper reported happily from the 
ship that they had collected several tons of rain water: the fresh-water 
tanks had been filled to the brim in a single night. The heavy rain 
put an end to the shifting winds and treacherous weather of the past 
few days, and again the sky was blue. 

But over in the long-ears' cave a solitary man lay writhing in agony. 
He had been in the field carrying stones from his family cave for the 
first time, when he was caught by the cloudburst. I knew nothing 
about it till late the next night when the doctor and I came home from 
our meeting with Estevan and his wife in the village. It was long past 
midnight, and before I crept into my tent, I stood for a moment looking 
at the silhouette of the newly erected giant against a southern sky 
ablaze with stars. Suddenly Lazarus appeared out of the darkness, and 


I saw by the grave expression on his face that something was wrong. 
He told me that the sexton's brother, the gaunt rider, lay dying in Hotu 
Matua's cave. Could the doctor come? 

We got the doctor as he was crawling into his sleeping bag, and all 
three of us hurried across* the plain to the cave. Lazarus told me on the 
way that the sick man had confided to him that he had a cave; he had 
been there the night before and fetched a number of things, which he 
had hidden in a sack among some big rocks up on the ridge above the 
Anakena Valley. But during the night, back in Hotu Matua's cave, he 
had suddenly been taken ill. He grew worse as the day passed and he 
was now lying doubled up and retching, with a fearful pain in his 
stomach. He had told Lazarus where the sack was hidden, and asked 
him to bring it to me if he himself should die. 

Long-ears were lying everywhere in the cave trying to sleep, and 

at the far end the lanky man lay, pale and hollow-cheeked, looking 

like death itself as he twisted and groaned in pain. They all watched 

round-eyed while the doctor examined the skinny body fore and aft 

and gave him a dose of pills. As the night passed the patient became 

quieter, till it was evident that he was neither in pain nor in danger. 

When at last we had left the cave, the thin man was so far recovered 

that he was able to creep out and disappear into the darkness. He went 

straight up to the ridge for the sack, and hurried from there directly 

to his cave where he rushed the contents of the sack back into their 

old places. Then he returned to the village, relieved and empty-handed, 

and told his friends that he had escaped death by a hairsbreadth. The 

doctor told me that the man had suffered only a severe attack of colic. 

The sexton's pale brother had come and gone almost like a shooting 

star in the night, but both the torrential rain and the healing of a dying 

man had made an impression on all his compatriots. When I returned 

to my tent in the small hours of the morning, a great snarling head 

lay in my bed, the head of a feline large enough to be a lion or a puma. 

When I struck a match and looked round in the flickering light, I saw 

that Yvonne was wide-awake. She whispered that a native had been 

there and pushed the great head in through the tent opening. She 

thought she had recognized the mayor's youngest brother. 


Into the Secret Caves 

She was quite right. Next day the little man with the mustache and 
the large antelope eyes came to me in the tent. It was young Atan, 
who had turned up the first whale along with the mayor, Lazarus, and 
me. Lazarus, who now felt quite emancipated, had been trying for a 
long time to put courage into little Atan. Atan had disclosed to Lazarus 
that he too had a cave; he had even told Lazarus that he had thought 
of asking his eldest brother, the mayor, for permission to give Senor 
Kon-Tiki something from the cave. 

After Atan had peered out of the tent and made sure that no one 
was listening to us, he told me all that he knew. He was a long-ear of 
pure blood. There were four brothers: the eldest, who was head of the 
family, was the mayor, Pedro Atan; then came Juan Atan, Estevan 
Atan, and finally himself, Atan Atan, who bore the additional name 
Hare Kai Hiva, after an ancestor. Each of the four brothers had re- 
ceived a cave from their rich father. Atan, being the youngest, had the 
smallest cave with only sixty sculptures. Further, as the youngest, he 
had nothing to say about his brothers' caves, but they could make de- 
cisions about his. He had received the cave from his father, who got it 
from Maria Mata Poepoe, who got it from Atamo Uhu, who got it 
from Hare Kai Hiva, and it was he who had made the sculptures. I 
recognized the name of Hare Kai Hiva from the mayor's family tree: 
he was a direct descendant of the only surviving long-ear, Ororoina. 

To a question, Atan replied rather hesitantly that the great head 
he had brought me represented a sea lion: these animals sometimes 
appeared on the coast. I pointed out that a sea lion had no ears. Atan 
agreed, but thought there might have been other kinds of sea lions in 
Hare Kai Hiva's time. 

Atan was genuinely distressed at the idea that some day people 
would be able to find his cave with a machine; Lazarus had told him 
this. If his brothers would allow him, he would rather get rid of the 
whole thing now, for he was a good Christian and thought it would 
be best if the whole responsibility was transferred to a protected mu- 
seum. Atan Atan was a simple, candid soul and not very difficult to 
influence. He had seen more than enough of my mana, and required 
no further persuasion. 


Three evenings later I was invited to his own little hut on the out- 
skirts of the village. There he confided to me that both his old aunt, 
Tahu-tahu, and his two brothers, Pedro and Juan, had given him a 
free hand to turn over the cave to me: only one brother's permission 
was needed, that of Estevan Atan. I must now help to persuade him. 
While I sat alone, waiting by the burning candle, Atan stole over to 
the next hut and got his brother. 

Estevan Atan turned out to be a man I had never met. He was the 
only one of the four brothers who had not been able to join the force of 
long-ears working for me. Atan naively confided to me that his brother 
was captain of the gang who had built a boat to clear off to Tahiti as 
soon as the expedition ship was no longer there to keep an eye on them. 
The new arrival looked rather annoyed, but admitted that this was 
true. He had never been to sea, but he had learned all about the stars 
from old islanders, and knew how to find his way across the ocean. 

So here was the next village skipper who would soon push off for 
Tahiti. He was an unusually fine-looking fellow in his thirties, with 
thin firm lips, honest eyes, and a good bearing. As with the other 
brothers, there was nothing of the native in his appearance: he would 
have passed unnoticed in any street in Northern Europe. But he was a 
genuine long-ear. He also was a man of inquiring mind. He asked about 
the drift of the Kon-Tify raft and the outside world below the horizon. 
The night was well advanced before little Atan managed to change 
the subject to families and caves, but it went quite smoothly. Late at 
night it was disclosed that the village skipper himself had about a 
hundred sculptures in his own cave; formerly there had also been a 
jar or ipu maengo 1 among them, but this tiny coffee-colored vessel had 
been broken. His finest treasure was a "book" with rongo-rongo written 
on all the pages. No one in the island had seen it but himself. 

I was told that the family's cave chief was Aunt Tahu-tahu: she was 
something of a sorceress and had dealings with the devil. She had an 
immensely important cave, which their cousin would certainly take 
over at some future date. Old Tahu-tahu had friendly feelings toward 

1 Ipu means bottle-gourd, or calabash; maengo, pottery. 


Into the Secret Caves 

me, for I had given her cigarettes and black dress material when she 
came to Anakena to dance for "good luck" before the men in Hotu 
Matua's cave. 

A few days later things began to move. Rumors first reached the 
camp that little Atan had suddenly developed blood poisoning and was 
in the village hospital. My heart sank. He was sure to think that this 
was punishment for having taken the feline head from his cave. Soon 
afterward Lazarus brought news that the village doctor had lanced 
Alan's finger: he had had "good luck," for all was going well. And 
then came a message that Atan awaited me at his hut. 

To attract as little attention as possible, I went by jeep to the church 
late in the evening and stepped in to see Father Sebastian. He was 
ablaze with excitement when he heard what was brewing. His dearest 
wish had been to see one of the secret caves of which he had heard so 
many rumors, and which he thought were now lost. He realized that 
it was useless for him, as a priest, to come with us. But I again prom- 
ised to report to him as soon as I had seen anything, even if I had to 
wake him up at night. 

On the last stretch from Father Sebastian's house to Atan's, down 
a rocky path, I groped my way along a stone wall in pitch-darkness. 
I found the gate and went in and knocked at the low wooden door. 
Atan, with his arm in a sling, opened it cautiously and let me squeeze 
in. He shut the door carefully behind me, and we sat down on each 
side of a little table with a lighted candle on it. Atan removed a cloth 
and disclosed a grinning death's-head on the table between us. The 
head was of lava with horribly realistic features, bared teeth and jaw- 
bones and deep dark holes for eyes and nostrils. On the top of the skull 
were two strange cup-shaped cavities the size of a thumbnail. 

"That's for you!" exclaimed Atan, pointing to the skull. "There is 
the key to the cave. Now the cave is yours." 

I was so surprised that I did not know what to do, but before I could 
say anything stupid, Atan pointed to the two little hollows on the 
cranium and confided to me that they had been full of powdered bones 
from an a^w-a^w which would have killed anyone who touched this 
"key." But old Aunt Tahu-tahu had been in the cave and removed all 


the bone meal so carefully that I could feel quite safe. Throughout Atan 
referred to this stone skull as a "key," and said I must keep it under 
my bed until we went to the cave together two days later. Then I must 
take the "key'' with me. 

I shall never forget the sight of Atan with the flickering candle 
beside the gray skull, and I shuddered inwardly as I saw myself and 
my shadow grasp the grinning stone "key" which was now mine. Both 
the light and our voices were so faint that they scarcely reached the 
walls, but outside I heard the clatter of horses as solitary riders passed 
up and down the slope. The amount of activity in the village at night 
was puzzling. 

Atan begged to come to the camp for a special meal, a curando for 
"good luck" was the way he put it, on the day he fixed for our noc- 
turnal visit to his cave. When I asked to be allowed to take a friend 
along, he was at first very reluctant. But his second thought was that 
the cave was mine now, and if I was going to empty it anyhow, another 
person might not do much harm. He was relieved when I suggested 
Ed, for his brother Juan had worked for Ed at Orongo and said he 
was a good fellow. But three was an unlucky number, so Atan wanted 
to take his own brother Estevan, the village skipper. Finally I managed 
to wangle in the photographer as well, but then Atan wanted to have 
another of his people too, so that we should be six; for two, four, and 
six were good numbers. Then he asked me meekly not to take more, 
for we might unintentionally annoy the af(u-at{u of the cave. 

On the great day our captain drove over to the village to fetch Atan 
Atan, and came back bringing also Atan's brother and a young friend, 
Enlique Teao, who was a member of the mayor's team of long-ears. 
Dinner was over when they arrived, so we were alone in the mess tent 
where the steward served a plain smorgasbord. The village skipper 
asked me quietly to give a little "good luck" present to his brother Atan 
today, and another to Aunt Tahu-tahu, who had agreed to his handing 
over the cave. She had even gone to the cave early that morning and 
baked a hen for the afa-afa near the entrance. 

When we sat down to the table, the natives first made the sign of 
the cross and murmured a little grace. Afterward Atan looked up at 


Into the Secret Caves 

me innocently and explained that this was otra cosa aparte, "another 
thing apart." Then he leaned over the table toward the rest of us and 
said in a whisper that before we began the meal each of us must repeat 
aloud in Polynesian : "I am a long-ear from Norway. I am eating from 
the earth oven of the Norwegian long-ears/' 

When everyone had said this in turn, all further conversation was 
conducted in whispers. Only afterward did I realize that the meal was 
in honor of the atyt-afas, to whom our mutual relationship had just 
been made known. I knew that Atan had abandoned his former idea 
that the original inhabitants of the island had come from Austria; both 
he and the other long-ears were now certain that at least their own 
tribe had come from Norway. We had on board our ship a big sailor 
with flaming red hair who was especially mentioned in support of this 
idea. So now, during the ceremonial curando, the a\u-a\u$ were initi- 
ated into this rather complicated relationship. 

When Ed came into the tent with a message, I asked if he might 
participate in the "good luck 1 ' meal since he was to visit the cave with 
us. Then Ed had to repeat in Polynesian, with a broad American ac- 
cent, that he too was a long-ear from Norway, who was eating from 
the earth oven of the Norwegian long-ears. The meal continued, pro- 
foundly serious, with all conversation in hoarse whispers. The table 
talk about spirits and caves was as strange to us as the smorgasbord 
dishes were to our guests. Atan helped himself liberally to butter with 
a cake server, and put slices of lemon on his bread instead of into his 
tea, but they all thoroughly enjoyed the meal. After eating their fill, 
the three natives went into an empty tent to rest; it was a long time 
before we were to set out on our secret mission. 

A couple of hours after nightfall Atan came to tell me that we could 
start now. He was grave and solemn; it was clear that he regarded the 
impending transfer of a cave as a serious event. Personally I had a feel- 
ing that I was starting on a long and strange journey when I went into 
the tent to say good-by to Yvonne and take the grinning death's-head 
from a bag under the bed. How this magic key was to be used I had 
no idea, and no one could tell me. Apart from the initiated owners of 
secret family caves, I was the first person to hold such a stone in my 

hand. Yvonne handed me an airlines bag with presents for old Tahu- 
tahu, as I went out into the night to tell Ed and the cameraman that 
we could start. 

We were to go by jeep past the lonely sheep farm at Vaitea, on the 
high ground in the middle of the island, and from a point between 
there and the village we were to continue on foot toward the cave. 
By way of camouflage we filled the back of the jeep with bundles of 
washing, and our captain drove us up to Vaitea. Here he delivered the 
washing to Analola, the native manageress at the sheep farm. With 
some girl friends she had undertaken to do all our washing, since they 
had access to the only tap on the island; the water was piped from an 
overgrown crater lake in the volcano of Rano Aroi. 

The photographer took the wheel and drove on with the three 
natives, Ed, and myself. We had started in glittering starlight, but now 
a shower came. Atan, who was sitting solemnly on the toolbox between 
the photographer and me, looked uneasy and began to whisper to me 
about the need for some "good luck." I heard the village skipper mutter 
to Ed in a gloomy voice that it looked as if the wind was changing. 
Strained as the natives were tonight, I could not judge with certainty 
whether anything in particular worried them, or whether they were 
merely oppressed by the gravity of the occasion. I feared that something 
might happen to make them draw back at the eleventh hour. The 
sexton's brother was fresh in my memory. 

In the back seat Ed and the two natives were no longer exchanging 
a single word. The photographer at the wheel was silent of necessity. 
He understood neither Spanish nor Polynesian and could converse 
with the natives only through pantomime. When he suddenly stopped 
the jeep and got out to look at all the wheels, the two Atan brothers 
were terrified and asked what was wrong. I tried to calm them, saying 
that everything was all right. Obviously they were both in a jittery state, 
looking for all sorts of omens and signs. I was almost in a panic myself 
lest the jeep for once should break down because the photographer, 
ignorant of our conversation, next began to gesticulate wildly, explain- 
ing with a worried look that he thought the engine was running on 
only three cylinders. 


Into the Secret Caves 

But the jeep bumped on in the deep crooked ruts, and the stars 
again glittered above us between the scudding clouds. The two brothers 
still sat as if on pins, and when we came to the appointed place, Atan 
suddenly changed the program. It would be better if we drove on right 
into Hangaroa and waited in his house till the whole village was asleep. 

When we approached the village, he changed his mind again: his 
a\u-a\u had said we were to drive to his brother's house instead of to 
his own. We drove straight through the village with our lights on, 
swung down toward the coast in front of the church, and went on for 
a short way northward along a stone wall. Here we were told to turn 
the lights off and stop, and Enlique Teao was left to look after the 
jeep while the rest of us climbed over the wall and walked in a drizzle 
across a stony field. Small, light lava stones lay strewn so thickly over 
the ground that walking was difficult, and Atan offered the photog- 
rapher, the oldest in the party, a shoulder to prevent him from twisting 
an ankle or falling. He repeatedly whispered to Ed that it was safe for 
his own friends to go over his land because he had a good heart; his 
al(i4-aJ(u therefore saw that nothing happened to those who crossed his 
ground. He naively added that he had always been kind to others: he 
gave food to those who had none and listened to those who asked for 
help. So his own a\u-a\u was satisfied with him. 

In the middle of the stony field was a little whitewashed hut. The 
village skipper tapped cautiously at both the window and the door 
before he succeeded in waking his wife. At last the door was opened 
by a grave woman in her thirties, of almost savage beauty, with long 
raven-black hair flowing down over a magnificent figure. The village 
skipper, for all his family pride, had found among the short-ears a 
worthy wife. 

Two benches were drawn up to a small table in the middle of the 
floor, and here the beauty, gliding round about us like a silent shadow, 
placed a small candle. The village skipper disappeared; in a little while 
he came back with a coverless manuscript book which he carefully 
drew from an old paper cement bag and laid before us in the candle* 

The notebook, whose leaves were yellow and faded, had once been 

2 39 

made as a copybook for children in Chile, but it had been used for 
quite a different purpose. On every page were pagan rongo-rongo signs : 
small neatly drawn figures of bird-men, demons, and other curious 
symbols which we knew so well from the mysterious picture writing 
of Easter Island. When we turned the pages, we saw some with nothing 
but unreadable lines of hieroglyphics, while others were arranged like 
a dictionary. The latter rongo-rongo symbols were nicely set out in a 
column down the left-hand side of the page, and to the right of each 
sign its definition was given in Easter Island Polynesian by means of 
crude roman letters. 

We sat around the candle and looked at the faded rongo-rongo 
book, speechless with astonishment. It was obvious that this was no 
sham arranged for us by the village skipper; and it was equally clear 
that if the person who had once written these mysterious signs really 
possessed the secret of the rongo-rongo writing, then this simple cover- 
less book was of enormous value for the interpretation of Easter Island's 
ancient picture writing. 

I noticed that 1936 was written on one of the pages, and asked the 
village skipper where he had obtained this fine book. He said that his 
father had given it to him a year before he died. His father could write 
neither rongo-rongo nor modern characters, but he had told his son 
that neverthless it was he who had made the book: he had carefully 
copied an older book which had completely fallen to pieces, and that 
one had been made by his father. The village skipper's grandfather had 
been a learned man who could carve rongo-rongo on slabs of wood and 
also sing the text. At that time there were some men alive on the island 
who had learned to write modern letters while they were in exile as 
slaves in Peru. One of them had helped the old rongo-rongo man 
record the sacred meaning of the ancient signs to prevent their total loss 
since nearly all the old-time experts had died during the slave raid. 

Both Atan and the village skipper's own wife were as amazed at 
the book as we were, and the owner proudly confided to us that until 
now he had not let a single person see it. He kept it in a cement bag 
in his own cave, and only took it out now and then when he wanted 
to think of his father. He had decided to make a copy before this book 


Into the Secret Caves 

too fell to pieces, but he had found that it was a fearful task to copy 
all the little figures on the forty-one pages of the book. I proposed that 
the cameraman should borrow the book and make an exact photographic 
copy for him, and after much hesitation he consented. 2 

It was now growing late by local standards, and I asked if we should 
not be going soon. The village skipper replied that there was no need to 
go yet; he would know when it was eleven, for a particular cow always 
mooed then. I did not hear the cow myself, but not long after we broke 
up and the black-haired vahine took us to the door with the candle. 
Again Atan carefully helped the photographer over the stony field. 
Back at the jeep, our watchman Enlique lay sleeping like a log over 
the wheel. We shook him awake and went on, following the ruts 
northward in the direction of the leper station. Soon we swung off 
inland along a cattle track. It was so dark and the "road" so entirely 
hypothetical that Atan had to sit the whole time with his hand out- 
stretched, pointing out the course. The souvenir of his blood poisoning, 
a white rag on his index finger, was highly suitable for showing the 
way at night. 

After half an hour's driving we had left Puna Pau with the topknot 
quarry behind us, and Atan made signs to stop and leave the jeep. We 
all six crawled out and stretched our legs after the bumpy ride. The 
village, far behind us, lay dark and silent. The drizzle had stopped and 
the stars began a new conquest of the sky. The village skipper looked 
up and whispered that we had "good luck," for the rain had stopped. 
It struck both Ed and me that this was a most peculiar remark from 
an Easter Islander, since in the middle of the dry season a shower was 
always welcomed by the inhabitants. Little Atan added eagerly that he 
was sure all would go well, for his Aunt Tahu-tahu had great mana 
power. She had not only told him how he should behave, but she had 
personally prepared the earth oven at the cave. 

Before we began our walk, we had to climb over a high wall of 

1 Thereby the irreplaceable contents of the book were saved for posterity, because one 
dark night after the expedition ship had left, the village skipper slipped off to sea in his 
little boat. Nobody knows his fate. Perhaps the book is still hidden in his cave, the 
entrance to which is lost. Perhaps it accompanied its owner into the distant ocean. 


f AW f 

II . 


i' raua, 


KUA i/era ^atcc mala 

5/ Ki 


, topa Kia iitai 


na/ua . 


Two pages from the village skipper's 
rongo-rongo book. The text seems to 
have originated on Easter Island in 
the latter part of the last century 
when a Tahitian bishop with the aid 
of an Easter Islander had attempted 
to write down a similar list of figures 
and their equivalent. The book also 
contains a variety of hitherto un- 
recorded ancient traditions. 

.o^ KOHOU 9 

i r n'Vd TtV^ inoRai ite XoWAJ. 


loose stones. Here Atan took all the camera equipment from the pho- 
tographer and nursed him across the barrier. I was terrified lest someone 
should tumble down and bring the top of the wall with him, for that 
would obviously be taken as a bad omen. On the other side of the wall 
we came to a narrow path, and here I was asked to lead the way by 
carefully shining the flashlight down, but soon I had to stop because 
the cursed battery gave out. The two brothers asked nervously what 
had happened, and I tried to calm them. But they were uneasy till the 
photographer smuggled me his light so I could go on. 

The path wound through a cornfield, broken by open stretches of 
stony ground, leading into an area which Atan later told me was called 
Matamea. This was the name given by the Easter Islanders to the planet 
Mars. I tried hard to keep my bearings, but it was so dark outside the 
range of the light falling before the tips of my toes that I could see 
nothing but the silhouette of three round hills against the starry sky, 
one of them straight ahead and the others to the right of us. 

It was a strange walk through the night by six silent men, an absurd 
mixture of ancient and modern times. I myself marched at the head 
with the village skipper's precious rongo-rongo book in the airlines 
bag over my shoulder and Atan's grinning death's-head in an official 
mailbag of the Royal Norwegian Foreign Department. Behind me in 
single file came the others with camera equipment and empty card- 
board boxes. Now we had reached a field with tall dry grass. Atan 
whispered that we were to stop, and he asked me to switch off the 

The village skipper went fifty yards to the left out of the file, and 
stood in the long grass with his back to us. Then in subdued tones he 
began to speak in Polynesian. Out in the field the sudden sound of his 
voice carried into the night with remarkable resonance; even if the 
melodious phrases rose in crescendo, he was not using the full strength 
of his vocal chords. There was not a living soul to talk to in the grass, 
but Atan whispered excitedly that his brother was talking to the a{u- 
a{us in the area to make sure that all would go well. 

When the village skipper rejoined us, he told us only to whisper 
when we left the path; and we must not smile, we must look serious. 


Into the Secret Caves 

I was again asked to lead the way, this time through the high grass 
near the place where he had delivered his monologue. 

The dry grass lay in scattered patches, and we stopped at a spot 
where the village skipper squatted down and began to dig in the sand 
with his hands. At once a shiny green banana leaf appeared; it was 
here that old Tahu-tahu had been early in the morning to prepare the 
so-called umu or Polynesian earth oven. Layers of banana leaves were 
removed, each browner than the one before, and steamier and juicier; 
at last the white flesh of a baked chicken and three sweet potatoes came 
to light, while a most wonderful and unusual aroma rose up to our 
nostrils. It was a smell that made our mouths water as it diffused into 
the night. 

Atan sat as though on pins while the earth oven was uncovered, 
and when the contents appeared in good order he seemed immensely 
relieved. Tahu-tahu's earth oven had been successful: we had "good 

While we all squatted reverently round the earth oven sniffing the 
mingled aroma, I was asked in a whisper to pinch off the little tail on 
the rump of the hen and eat it in the presence of the others, while 
saying aloud a magic Easter Island formula: He fat ite limit pare 
haonga tafapu Hanau eepe foi noruego. 

I later discovered that the natives themselves had difficulty in trans- 
lating some old words in this phrase, the meaning of which was that 
we were to eat from this ceremonial earth oven of the Norwegian long- 
ears to get mana to enter the cave. 

The brothers were still on tenterhooks, and I have never struggled 
so hard to repeat without stumbling a difficult sentence which I only 
partially understood. At the same time my knowledge of a fowl's 
anatomy was strained to the uttermost as I fumbled my way over 
the contorted and trussed-up hen to the place where its tail was. I no- 
ticed that head and claws were still intact although twisted out o 
position, and the beak of the bird was clipped off at the roots. I recalled 
that the mayor had once told me how one could kill an enemy by 
doing something magic with a fowl's beak. 

I wrenched off the little tail, put it into my mouth, and chewed. 


It did not taste at all bad. I was next told to help myself to a small piece 
of sweet potato. It tasted excellent. But I was left with a round chicken 
bone in my mouth which I did not know whether to swallow or spit 
out; and I could not blunder. I sat sucking the bone till Enlique signed 
to me that I could spit it out, but Atan interfered and asked me to lay 
it on a banana leaf. 

I was now told to break off a piece of chicken and a morsel of 
sweet potato for each of the others, and each time I who helped and 
those who ate were to repeat the same complicated sentence. I was in 
a panic when the photographer, as the first man served, ventured the 
words, but he mumbled something so indistinctly that no one could 
have known if they were right or wrong. Ed avoided the issue by just 
swallowing the titbit as soon as I had said the difficult sentence for him. 

When we had managed this hurdle, Atan whispered that now the 
a\u-a\u$ were pleased. Since they had seen us eating in their honor, 
we could help ourselves freely and eat up the whole chicken for good 

Never have I known a meal to smell better, and never have I come 
across chicken and sweet potatoes prepared in more masterly fashion 
than in those banana leaves in old Tahu-tahu's earth oven. In this one 
respect the old dancing specter was a true sorceress who could, without 
cookbook or spices, outdo the most highly trained chef de cuisine. But 
then no restaurant could compete by spreading such a starry sky above 
its guests, with a wall tapestry alive with waving silhouettes of grass, 
while spices were wafted in upon the food as a fragrant scent from an 
open meadow and a burned-out fire. 

Yet we who sat here in a circle enjoying our chicken bones were not 
the guests of honor at the meal. The ceremony was held for other 
guests, who had no stomachs and therefore lacked our splendid appe- 
tites: they just rejoiced to see how good the meal was tasting. I felt 
almost sorry for the a1(u-al(us who sat around us in the grass, if at least 
they had the sense of smell. Atan whispered that now and then we 
must throw a gnawed bone over our shoulders and say: "Eat, family 

We spoke aloud to the atyi-atyis but only whispered among our- 


Into the Secret Caves 

selves. Apparently the stomachless guests of honor did not hear very 
well; sight must have been their keenest sense. 

At the height of the meal a disgusting green blowfly buzzed in 
and landed plumb in the middle of the food. I was just about to drive 
it away from the chicken, but hesitated for a second. It was as well I 
did, for Atan stared hard at the fly and whispered eagerly : 
"That's the a\u-al$u singing. It's good luck!" 

He grew more cheerful as the meal progressed. When only part 
of a large sweet potato was left, I was told to break it up and strew the 
pieces round about us, on the banana leaves, and in the empty hearth. 

When this was done, Atan whispered that everything was ready. 
He rose and asked me to bring the "key": now we were to open the 
entrance to the cave. Never before had I felt so excited about something 
I was going to see. We walked only fifteen or twenty paces west; then 
Atan stopped. We both squatted down. I sat there with the grinning 
death's-head on my knee. 

"Now ask your afa-afa where the entrance is," Atan suddenly 
whispered in an almost challenging tone. 

My heart leaped to my throat. We were in the middle of a plain 
as flat as the floor of a room; there was not a hill in sight except the 
three distant silhouettes against the stars. How could there be a cave 
here? There wasn't a sizable rock in the vicinity. 

"No," I replied. "I cannot ask that. It is wrong to ask about the 
entrance to other people's private property." 

Fortunately Atan agreed, and pointed straight to the ground at the 
tips of my shoes. I saw there a small flat stone half-covered with sand 
and loose straw, exactly like ten million others nearby. He asked me in 
a whisper to bend down toward the stone, with the death's-head in 
front of me, and say in a loud voice: "Open the door of the cave!" 

I felt a fool, but did as he said. I bent down toward the earth with 
the grinning "key" in my hands, and repeated the magic words as Atan 
himself had said them: "Mataty ite ana {ahaata mail" 

Then he took the stone head from me and told me to enter. I 
brushed away the sand and straw till the whole of the stone appeared: 
it proved to be the size of a teatray. I felt it, and it was loose. When 


I turned it up, a gaping black hole appeared in the earth. It was too 
narrow for anyone to force his way down. One by one I loosened four 
other slabs which appeared below, being extremely careful not to let 
sand or straw slip into the hole. At last the opening was just big enough 
for a man to drop through. 
"Now go in!" Atan commanded. 

I sat on the ground with my legs in the hole. It was impossible to 
see anything down in the black opening, and as I lowered my body I 
held on with my elbows and stretched down with my toes to feel if 
I could touch bottom. I could not, and on a signal from Atan I loosed 
my hold and let myself fall down into the unknown. In the fraction 
of a second before I let go, I had a curious feeling of having done this 
before. I remembered a night during the war when I had sat with my 
legs down a dark hole. That time it was a sergeant who bade me let 
go, but then I had a parachute on my back and knew that I should 
land among friends on a training ground in England. Now little Atan, 
looking at me with his strange big eyes, was the only person who knew 
where I was going to land, and he seemed vaguely uncertain about 
the friendliness of the afa-afas down below. 

I let go and fell down through the darkness, but not far, and my 
fall was remarkably soft and light. I could not see a thing, and had no 
idea what I was standing on. Only above me was there light of sorts: 
a small round hole in the roof with a few brilliant stars. The black 
shadow of a head appeared, and an arm which handed me the flash- 
light. When I turned it on, it revealed two shining white skulls at my 
feet. One of them had a patch of verdigris over its forehead, and a 
threatening black obsidian spear point lay on top of each. I was stand- 
ing on a mat of yellow totora reeds plaited together with twisted bark : 
it was so thick and soft that it was like standing on a mattress. The 
cave around me was small, with rock walls rising solid in front of me, 
to the right, and behind me, but under a sagging fold of lava it con- 
tinued inward to the left. There I could see a confused mass of gro- 
tesque faces and figures as far as my feeble light could reach. The 
figures seemed to be standing along the walls on the same kind of 
mats as that under my feet. 

Into the Secret Caves 

I was able to take only a quick look around before Atan handed 
down the stone "key"; then he turned about and wriggled his legs 
and backside into the hole. I noticed that right above me the roof round 
the opening was artificially constructed of large slabs, but farther in 
it continued as a natural tunnel with round folds of solidified lava 
hanging down from the roof. 

I moved aside so that little Atan could let himself drop. The first 
thing he did when he landed like a ball on the mat was to bow gravely 
to the two skulls, after which he bowed to a stone skull lying a little 
farther on in the tunnel, exactly like the one I now had in my hands. 
He whispered that I must put the "key" down beside this other 
"guardian," and then say in a low voice that I was a long-ear from 
Norway who had come here with my brother. Afterward he showed me 
that his aunt had removed the magic bone meal from the holes in the 
other stone skull also. He took a quick look round and whispered that 
there was no longer any danger. His aunt had arranged everything, he 
had meticulously carried out her orders, and the afa-afas were satisfied. 

I turned my flashlight into the corners where diabolical faces and 
strange twisted figures of stone were drawn up for review. 

"This is your house," Atan assured me. "Now you can walk about 
in it as you like." 

He added that the name of the cave was Raakau, and explained that 
to the best of his knowledge raafou was a rather special name for the 
moon. Atan and I crept farther into the cave to make room for the 
photographer and Ed, who were now coming down through the hole. 
We went along a narrow passage between two wide ledges built of 
loose stones and covered with yellow reed mats. All the way the strang- 
est sculptures lay closely packed on the mats on both sides of us. The 
tunnel was not very long, after a few yards it ended abruptly in an 
irregular wall; but Atan's "moon-cave" was indeed the most fabulous 
underground treasure chamber. Here were curiosities which would 
make an art dealer tear his hair with excitement. No museum in the 
world had figures of this kind: each object was an ethnographic novelty 
which gave us the strangest impression of the Easter Islanders' secret 
and bizarre world of imagination. 



Every single figure in this myriad of underground sculptures was 
quite different from what we had seen before. The only traditional 
Easter Island motif I recognized was a long-beaked bird-man standing 
erect with his hands behind him; but hitherto such figures had been 
seen only in wood, no one had yet heard of a tangata manu statuette in 
stone. There were also small stone models of the peculiar Easter Island 
paddles. Indeed, everything was represented, from human beings and 
mammals to birds, fish, reptiles, and invertebrates. Nor were fantastic 
hybrids lacking. Here and there were groups of figures carved on the 
same stone, such as two bird-men holding between them a strange 
catlike animal. There were also many distorted monsters with an occa- 
sional head here and there, and some sculptures which none of us un- 
derstood at all. 

The central passage between the reed mats was thickly carpeted 
with dry hay. Atan said that his aunt Tahu-tahu had taken care of the 
cave for him when he was a little boy, and she still came down here 
and slept whenever she was depressed and was missing those who had 
gone. She had been there the same morning and attended to the stones. 
I noticed that two of them were wet. 

As the time passed Atan felt more and more at ease, and in half an 
hour he suddenly said to me with his voice at normal pitch: "It's all 
right now. We can talk and do what we like, in your home, my 

Atan obviously felt that he had carried out the last of his aunt's 
instructions: the cave with its pleasures, dangers, and obligations was 
legally transferred. Now it was I who had all the responsibility, he 
himself was out of the danger zone. His own agitation had reached its 
climax when the earth oven was uncovered and Tahu-tahu's cooking 
had proved successful. Now his last anxiety had disappeared, he had 
escaped from the whole uncanny business. Whether his great relief 
was solely due to his freedom from responsibility, or whether he also 
thought the akj4-a\us had resigned their office and moved to a more 
peaceful habitation, was not quite clear to me. But despite a certain 
formal respect for the stones, Atan now gave the impression of a com- 
pletely free man. He only asked us politely to leave the two human 


Into the Secret Caves 

skulls where they were, as they were the heads of two of his own family. 
Otherwise we could take away as many cave stones as we could carry 
in the cardboard boxes we had brought. 

We had entered the ground at midnight, and we emerged again at 
two o'clock. We helped one another up out of the hole, and it was a 
relief after the stuffy cave to inhale deep draughts of fresh night air. 
The village skipper picked a juicy melon which we consumed. Then 
we covered the hole but did not conceal it with sand and straw because 
members of the expedition were coming back next day for the rest of 
the stones. Silently groping our way back in the darkness, we suddenly 
aroused an invisible drove of horses, whose hoofbeats drummed away 
with a hollow sound across the field. We saw neither lights nor people. 
Atan pushed ahead without troubling about the photographer, who 
now had to fend for himself. It seemed that aku-a\u$ were no longer 
lying in ambush. 

Ed asked Atan what he intended to do with his cave when the stones 
were no longer there. 
"I've got to keep it," said Atan. "I shall need it in case of war/' 

There was not much sleep in the tent that night. The kerosene lamp 
glowed over the pages of my diary until the eastern sky began to red- 
den, and I managed only a little nap before the steward hammered on 
the frying pan, the signal of another busy day. Lazarus was on the spot 
already, hanging about inquisitively while I had my morning wash 
behind the tents. 

The mayor had once told me that if several people entered a secret 
cave together, the afa-afas would move to another place. Without an 
at(u-al(ii the secret entrance would lose its magic, and strangers passing 
would be able to find it at once. I began to see the practical value of this 
superstition. For the saying, "What one person knows no one knows, 
but what two people know all know," is more applicable on Easter 
Island than anywhere else. No sooner had Enlique been told that he 
was to enter Atan's cave than he had boasted of this impending event 
to Lazarus, and even in the village people were beginning to talk. 

Some days earlier, before sunrise, Lazarus had come to my tent with 


some cave stones. He seemed rather upset and said nothing, only silently 
took from his sack a large bird exactly like a penguin. It was life-size 
and the likeness was so striking that I was utterly astonished, for I knew 
that, apart from the icy regions of the Antarctic, the penguin was found 
only in the Galapagos Islands. Lazarus reached into the sack again, 
and this time extracted the head of a purely imaginary bird, its beak 
full of sharp pointed teeth. Finally he produced the head of a beast of 
prey whose muzzle had been badly scraped on the journey. 

He sat silent for a long time, studying me belligerently. At last he 
told me that he had escaped death that night by a hairsbreadth. To 
fetch the sculptures, he had twice made a zigzag descent of the precipice 
leading to his cave; on the second ascent a small projecting rock broke 
off in his hand. Below him was a sheer drop of a hundred feet, and he 
was left bent backward with whirling arms, on the point of falling 
into the abyss. By the merest chance he had grabbed hold of another 
projection with his left hand, had regained his balance, and had cau- 
tiously climbed up the remaining fifty feet to the rim of the plateau. 
When he had reached the top safe and sound, he had sat for a long time 
thinking. Why this piece of bad luck? Was it wrong to take stones 
from the cave? 

Lazarus had asked himself this question again and again on his way 
back to Anakena that night, and now he put it directly to me with a 
suspicious air. 

"It's sheer madness to climb about on a precipice alone at night, 11 I 
said. "Surely you must realize that!" 

Lazarus looked at me skeptically, without visible reaction. It was 
clear that he was accustomed to such climbs, always alone, and always 
at night. 

"Besides, it wasn't bad luck," I added. "On the contrary you really 
had incredibly good luck in grasping the other bit of rock!" 

This gave Lazarus something to think about, and he began to look 
a bit brighter. Yes, indeed, he had not fallen; his was an extraordinary 
piece of good fortune to be sitting there without a scratch. But, he 
asked, why should he have suffered this frightening experience? 

This was not so easy to answer. I sat silent and stared at his sculp- 


Into the Secret Caves 

tures on the bed. Lazarus' stones were never washed or scrubbed, but 
today the head of the snarling beast had a nasty wound on its dark 
muzzle. I pointed to this, and Lazarus looked at the fresh scratch with 

"Do you think you treat your stones well?" I asked, trying to 
turn the conversation. "How would you like being shaken about in 
a sack with other contents without any grass around you to take the 

Lazarus' conscience was uneasy, and it looked as if he had found 
sufficient reason for the suffering of the night. Nevertheless, we agreed 
that he should not continue to fetch more stones. As this cave was in 
such a dangerous place, he must not risk these visits alone at night. 
And so Lazarus had crept out into the red glow of early morning, fully 
reassured that after all the night's adventure had been just another 
proof of "good luck." 

The night when our party was preparing to set off for Atan's cave, 
Lazarus had been lurking about the tents. When he saw me alone for a 
moment, he said that he knew what we were about, and that he too 
had decided to take me to his cave after I had been to Atan's. Now, the 
morning after, Lazarus could not refrain from trying to get a word 
with me as I stood behind the tents, my head down in a washbasin. He 
asked no pointed questions: he just sensed that no disaster had befallen 
any of us during the night. Then he disappeared. 

At that time Lazarus and several of the long-ears were working for 
Arne in Rano Raraku, returning on horseback to eat and sleep in Hotu 
Matua's cave. All our native workers had their daily rations, and those 
who lived in the Anakena Valley also got the leavings from the kitchen 
tent in the camp. But today Lazarus did not seem satisfied with his 
daily allowance. He came sauntering up at twilight and asked me if he 
might have a chicken, a live chicken. 

The natives had often brought me live fowls as presents, and all 
those which did not cackle or crow at daybreak had been allowed to 
live. They walked freely among the tents, while the noisy ones grad- 
ually came to a mysterious end. The steward, who rose early, was said 
to have seen the photographer stealing about among the tents barefoot, 

in his pyjamas, with a rifle in his hands. One thing was certain: he 
daily cursed the natives who filled the camp with crowing cocks and 
cackling hens. 

I suspected that Lazarus was up to something, and I told the stew- 
ard that he could let him have a chicken. The steward crept up on a 
flock, and flinging himself on his stomach into the cackling, fluttering 
mob, he managed to grasp a fleeing leg. Lazarus came back, delighted, 
with a hen under his arm. 

"This means good luck," he whispered happily. "The steward caught 
a white hen!" 

Before Lazarus disappeared with his white hen, he made sure that 
we could take the motor launch along the coast next day. He was will- 
ing to take me to the cave. Late in the evening the skipper drove to the 
village to fetch Bill, for Lazarus had agreed that he and the photog- 
rapher might come too. 

The sea was unusually smooth in the bay next morning when we 
assembled on board the ship. Lazarus followed me down into the hold : 
he wanted something to put into the cave to replace the stones we 
would take away. He asked for two unopened rolls of dress material 
and, in addition, some small article, no matter what. He was very par- 
ticular about the color of the dress material, but he immediately 
accepted a pair of scissors as the small object. I guessed that the rolls of 
material were for his two older sisters, while the a{u-a{u would have to 
be satisfied with only the scissors. 

When we climbed down the ladder into the launch, both the chief 
engineer and the electrician came too. They were to put the four of us 
ashore at a place which Lazarus would indicate. We set our course 
westward along the cliffs on the north coast, congratulating ourselves 
that the sea was so calm, that we should get ashore easily. But as we 
moved farther away from Anakena we felt the launch beginning to roll 
heavily. Only Lazarus took this as a matter of course, saying that the 
a\u-a1(us always whipped up the sea when someone was going to a cave. 
He sat goggle-eyed and held on tight. 

The coast was a chaos of lava blocks where the waves broke at the 
foot of a steep drop. In a little while Lazarus pointed out a stretch fifty 


Into the Secret Caves 

yards long between two enormous piles of rock running down to the 
sea. There his grandmother, fishing as she went along the rocks, had 
once surprised another old woman who was washing and drying cave 
stones. His grandmother had passed by, pretending that she saw noth- 
ing. When she returned a little later, the other woman too was fishing, 
and there was no sign of the stones. So Lazarus knew that there must 
be a secret cave in that place. 

Shortly afterward we passed the lonely windmill in the Hanga-o- 
Teo Valley, once an important population center, but now abandoned 
and desolate. Soon Lazarus pointed to another stretch of the wild coast 
about a hundred yards long. Within this area lay the secret cave where 
he had once told me his cousin Alberto Ika had been to fetch the rongo- 
rongo tablets, which the a\u-a\us had forced him to bring back to the 

Lazarus had scarcely shown us this spot when he became frightened: 
he could see people. The rest of us saw nothing, but Lazarus, who had 
the eyes of an eagle by day and those of an owl by night, saw four 
persons sitting on a rock. Why were they there, and what were they 
doing ? He stared and stared till we rounded the next point. 

Now the seas were becoming steadily worse, and we all saw that it 
was useless to try to land in such conditions. Just under the steep cliff 
where Lazarus' cave was located, we circled several times close inshore 
as Lazarus tried to point out to us a tiny ledge on the face of the preci- 
pice, behind which the entrance lay. This was an "open" cave, Lazarus 
explained. He went on pointing till we all thought we saw where it 
was. But when we checked up on one another, none of us agreed, and 
at last we gave it up altogether. 

The salt spray drenched our faces as the chief engineer put the helm 
over and set course for home. The launch rose on end and began a mad 
dance in the choppy sea. The waves grew worse and worse though the 
wind had not risen, it had merely shifted. It was no longer possible to 
keep a straight course; the helmsman had continually to turn into the 
biggest seas, which came rolling at us with foaming crests. Lazarus 
did not say a word, he just sat holding tight. The rest of us merely 
followed with our eyes the helmsman's skillful movements and every 

tumbling sea, while the salt spray dripped from our hair and faces, and 
our clothes clung to our bodies like wet paper. 

Just before we reached the Hanga-oTeo windmill, we all saw four 
small dots up on the edge of the plateau. Three of them climbed onto 
horses and rode in the same direction as ourselves, while the fourth 
turned about and galloped the other way, toward the village. 

"That's Alberto's brother," Lazarus exclaimed in surprise. u The 
others must be his sons." 

We soon lost sight of the horsemen, and no one had time to wonder 
what they had been doing. Soon the expedition ship appeared beyond 
a bluff; she too was pitching heavily in the seas, and roaring breakers 
followed us right into Anakena Bay, where the surf was thundering on 
the beach. 

Lazarus leaped ashore as if the devil himself was at his heels, and 
together we walked up to the camp in silence, wet as drowned rats. Bill 
was as serious as Lazarus, and was trying to rub the salt water off his 
spectacles with a sodden handkerchief. He confided to me that he had 
felt so terribly seasick that he thought he would die, but he dared not 
show it for fear Lazarus would interpret it as a bad omen. 

After lunch we set off for the cave again. But this time we saddled 
four horses and followed the remains of an ancient road which wound 
along the north coast between the screes of the plateau. Beyond the 
creaking windmill at Hanga-o-Teo, we came to a stretch of the road 
where the ancient pavement was still intact, resembling the Inca roads 
in Peru. Soon after Lazarus dismounted and escorted us to a ledge 
where a huge winding snake with cup-shaped hollows along its raised 
back was cut into the solid rock. He had told me about this before, and 
Father Sebastian had mentioned it too. Bill was quite amazed: the 
fauna of these Pacific islands did not include snakes, so where had the 
old-time sculptors found their model ? 

Soon afterward we passed a lone statue which had been abandoned 
en route to an ahu near the north cape. I thought of the transport 
problem with dismay: seven miles from Rano Raraku as the crow flies, 
and much more on this rough ground where riding was so difficult. 
Here we left the ancient trail and proceeded over a wild stony plain 


Into the Secret Caves 

just inside the steep drop to the ocean. The endless sea was still dotted 
with whitecaps. As we were riding down into a little gully, one of my 
stirrup straps broke, but I managed to hide it so that Lazarus noticed 
nothing, and rode on with only one stirrup into very rough ground, 
which was getting worse and worse. 

As we neared our destination, I observed for the first time that Laz- 
arus was growing nervous. He whipped up his horse with a little stick 
and begged me to quicken my pace, so that we might arrive before the 
others. We increased our lead across the stony plain by a couple of 
hundred yards, and when we came to the foot of two great lava blocks, 
Lazarus jumped to the ground and tied up his horse, asking me to do 
the same. Then he pulled off his shirt and trousers at top speed and 
stood with nothing on but his shorts. He rushed down the slope toward 
the edge of the precipice with a coil of rope in his hand, begging me as 
he ran to strip quickly and follow him with the hen. I had no idea 
where the hen was, and when I asked, I received an irritable, distracted 
reply as he bounded down the slope. I caught sight of an old bag hang- 
ing from his saddle, seized it, and hurried after him I too completely 
stripped but for my shorts. 

I overtook Lazarus on the very edge of the precipice, and without 
turning he hastily mumbled a snappish and nervous order that I should 
eat the chicken tail and give him a little bit when he came up again. 
Then he vanished down the cliff. When I asked in bewilderment if I 
was to eat the tail now or wait till he returned, I received no answer. 

In the bag I found the hen plucked and baked and packed in banana 
leaves. I had just wrenched off the little tail stump when Lazarus ap- 
peared over the edge again. I stuffed the tail into my mouth and chewed 
as I tore off a strip of the breast for him, which he gulped down like 
a wild beast, looking to left and right. It was a strange ceremony we per- 
formed on the very edge of the precipice, wearing only our shorts. The 
others had now reached the rocks and were dismounting. Lazarus 
asked me to break a few pieces from the hen and lay them on the rocks, 
and when this was done he suddenly seemed relieved and said that we 
could now eat freely, and also give some to the other two, who had 
joined us. 


Lazarus was still in a great hurry. He slung the loop of his rope 
over a stone which was only loosely attached to the rock by a dried 
lump of earth, and then flung the rest of the rope over the cliff. Now he 
disappeared over the edge again, without supporting himself by the 
rope or even testing it to see if it would hold. I looked down at him and 
asked cautiously if we could be sure that the rope was securely made 
fast. He gave me a queer look and said that he himself never used a 
rope, and what had I to be afraid of? He knew that nothing could 
happen to me. 

It is not always pleasant to be regarded as supernatural. I felt that I 
had only too good use for the rope, but dared not touch it, so badly was 
it secured. So I maneuvered myself over the edge, as Lazarus had done, 
while holding the scissors, wrapped in paper, between my teeth : I had 
been expressly instructed to bring them with me down the cliff. I am 
no mountaineer, and loathed what I was setting out to do. I lowered 
myself down till the tips of my toes found a hold on a disgustingly 
narrow ledge, but it was almost impossible to find a hold for my fingers. 
There was a perpendicular drop of 150 feet below, and down there foam 
and green water were whirling and roaring among sharp lava 
blocks. The ocean itself was as blue as the sky, but all along the rocks 
beneath us turbulent waves encircled the island like a twisting green 
monster foaming in fury as it sent licking tongues of water in between 
the black teeth of sharp lava jaws, greedily agape for anything which 
might fall down from the cliff above. It was a horrifying maw to 

We had to keep ourselves tight against the rock wall, for a single 
careless inch could tip us out of balance. Lazarus, straight-backed and 
light-footed, moved sideways along the ledge like a tightrope dancer, 
showing me the way. I suddenly lost all interest in his cave and cursed 
all afyi-afas, not least my own, which had landed me in such a situ- 
ation. My only wish was to clamber up again before it was too late. But 
I could not quite bring myself to do that either. So I followed slowly 
in Lazarus' wake, down the slanting ledge, with one cheek, my body, 
and two outstretched arms pressed close to the rock face so as not to tilt 


Into the Secret Caves 

Never again will I climb on a lava cliff in my underwear! The wide 
meshes caught on the jagged surface and I hung fast as though nailed 
to the wall. I had to jerk and pull till I managed to tear myself loose. 
If Lazarus had wished for a really vicious a\u-a\u to guard his cave, 
he could have hit upon nothing worse than an invisible one planted on 
this narrow ledge to catch ignorant intruders by their shorts at the most 
inconvenient moment. Certain it Was that while I staggered along 
the ledge, engaged in a constant struggle to release myself, Lazarus 
was tripping along gracefully on the tips of his toes without a single 

We climbed down in zigzags, coming upon the rope again at a 
steep place where it hung free down the cliffside. I could not quite do 
without it down to the next ledge, and I pressed fingers and toes against 
the lava wall wherever I could, letting as little as possible of my weight 
rest on the rope, till I reached a little shelf on which Lazarus stood. He 
flattened himself against the wall as stiff as a guardsman, and gave no 
sign of going further. This was a most uncomfortable parking place; 
the shelf was a foot wide and there was just room for both of us side by 
side, with our backs to the rock. 

There was no cave here. Lazarus stood motionless, pressed to the 
cliff, and stared at me with a strange and inscrutable expression. Sud- 
denly he reached out and said quickly: 
"Give me your hand!" 

He could have asked nothing worse of me right at that moment, as 
I was standing with the scissors in my mouth, clinging fast to the rock 
with my fingers, my shorts in shreds. I pressed against the cliff so hard 
that I felt the rough lava cutting into my back, and held out my right 
hand to him. He grasped it firmly. 

"Promise me not to say a word to anyone on the island about what 
we're up to now," he begged. "You can talk to your own people, but 
they must keep their mouths shut as long as they are here." 

He did not let go of my hand, as he continued. If his name was 
mentioned in connection with this affair, his sisters would be beside 
themselves with fury. When I had left the island, I could talk freely. 
For if rumors got back to the village through the Pinto, he would just 


say that he had made copies, and in a few months everything would be 

I promised to do what he asked of me, and then he let go my hand. 
He told me to bend over the precipice and look down. I stretched out 
as far as I dared, and gazed in horror at the sharp lava blocks in the 
whirling foam. There was a small ledge, like that on which we stood, 
about a man's height below us. And under this the cliff again fell sheer 
to the bottom. 

"Now, where is the entrance?" Lazarus asked with pride. 

"Impossible to say," I muttered through the package in my mouth. 
My only desire was to get all this over. 

"There, under your feet," he said, pointing to the small ledge beneath 
us. He braced me while I cautiously leaned out again. But still I saw 

"You can't get to the opening unless you do exactly as I tell you," 
Lazarus said. And then he began a course of instruction the like of 
which I have not experienced since I stood before my first dancing 
master. I was told to begin with the left foot and then follow with a 
meticulous series of short steps and half-turns which were to end in 
my sinking down on my knees and stretching out on my stomach on 
the shelf below. I was asked to wait where I was while Lazarus gave a 
demonstration of the difficult dance. I saw how he placed his hands and 
feet, how he twisted himself round down on the ledge to be able to sink 
onto his knees and onto his stomach; after that 1 only saw his kicking 
legs, and then he was gone. 

I stood alone and noticed more than ever how the air was filled 
with the thundering surf against the cliff. A few hundred yards farther 
west, on a curve of the coast, I spotted the cameraman standing on the 
very edge of the plateau, filming in the late afternoon sun. The ocean 
was still white-crested. It was out there we had been circling that morn- 
ing, also without seeing this infernal cave. 

Then a hand appeared on the shelf below holding a fiendish stone 
head; Lazarus' own head and body followed, and he slowly repeated, 
in reverse order, the same carefully studied steps and turns until he was 
up on the ledge with me again. 


Into the Secret Caves 

"The 'key,' " Lazarus said, holding out the cave stone. 

Again I had to press myself hard against the wall, for now Lazarus 
asked me to give him the scissors. I had to take them out of my mouth 
and hand them to him, while he gave me the "key" in my other hand. 
This "key" had human features with great bulging eyes, a bearded 
chin, and a most hypnotic expression; but a long neck stretched hori- 
zontally from the back of the head, as on an animal. Lazarus asked me 
to put the "key" down on a tiny ledge by my head, and then it was my 
turn to begin the frightful dance down to the cave. 

There was so little room for the maneuver that I soon realized the 
necessity of following Lazarus' lessons in every detail. When I had 
turned myself about so that I could crouch down on all fours on the 
lower ledge, I saw for the first time the opening leading to the cave, 
hidden under a projection in the rock. The hole was so small that I 
should never have dreamed of anyone being able to crawl into it. The 
original discoverers of the cave must have lived quite near, with time to 
explore every single inch of this terrain. Lazarus had told me that the 
cave was called Motu Tavake, which means "Cliff of the Tropical 
Bird"; the locality was called Omohi and lay at the foot of Vai-mataa 
on the Hanga-o-Teo plain. The cave had belonged to Hatui, who was 
the grandfather of Lazarus' mother. 

I was crouched on all fours on the tiny ledge, but the narrow hole 
in the rock opened onto a still smaller ledge, on the same level, but a 
little way off. To get to it I had to stretch forward and take hold of the 
edge of the other shelf. Lying flat, I got my arms and head into the 
hole on one ledge, while my knees and legs still lay on the other. My 
stomach was without support above the abyss and the breakers. The 
hole through which I was trying to worm my way was so narrow that 
my shorts were pulled down several times. The rock scratched and cut 
my back and thighs, for there was hardly any sand, only rough, hard 

At first I could make out nothing but a horribly narrow passage and 
a very faint suggestion of light ahead. I lay for a long time struggling 
with my legs out over the abyss, and when at last I got my feet inside 
I felt that the passage was widening a little, without any rise of the low 


roof. I became aware of various contours around me. And then, next 
to my ear, I discovered a sculpture representing two mating turtles. On 
my other side appeared a small statuette of the same type as the giants 
from Rano Raraku. I crept farther in and found more room. I could 
soon sit up and look into a cave which was dimly illuminated from 
some opening I could not yet see. Closely packed along the walls strange 
sculptures stood or lay, piled up in several rows on the bare, dry rock. 
There were no mats here and no hay. A few yards in front of me and 
blocking the way stood a conspicuous figure, unmistakably of the male 
sex. He was in a straddled position with bent knees and his arms raised 
threateningly; and he was surrounded by a mass of other figures. There 
was a little step behind him leading to a lower level, where two human 
skeletons were lying. A tiny hole in the wall to the right let a dim light 
fall on the crumbling bones and made it possible to see faintly the out- 
lines of the ghostly treasure chamber. 

I heard something breathing. I heard it as clearly as if it were in the 
corner beside me. But it was only Lazarus outside, squeezing himself 
in through the narrow opening. The acoustics were incredible: I could 
hear his bare skin rubbing against the sharp lava. Lazarus came in 
without ceremony and squatted down beside me. His big eyes and his 
teeth shone white. Lazarus now was quite himself again, just as I knew 
him on his nocturnal visits to my tent. He pointed out the big figure 
which straddled in a warning posture with its arms in the air, towering 
above the others; it suggested a traffic policeman directing the swarm of 
mysterious figures around him and along both sides of the cave down 
toward the opening. 

"That's the most important stone/' Lazarus explained. "He's the chief 
of the cave, an old king." 

Otherwise Lazarus knew incredibly little: to all my questions about 
the other figures his only reply was a shrug of the shoulders and "don't 
know." The only things he seemed to be sure about were two flat stone 
disks bearing symmetrical symbols: he declared that they represented 
the sun and the moon. We were not obliged to whisper, but the whole 
atmosphere and acoustics were such that it was natural to speak in a 
hushed voice. 


Into the Secret Caves 

Lazarus crawled round with me for a time, then he disappeared out 
of the passage again to bring Bill down; it was too risky for the pho- 
tographer to attempt the descent. A short time passed, and then I 
heard Bill's voice whispering an oath in the narrow hole. Bill had 
grown up in the heart of the Rockies, and he did not mind a precipice, 
but there were no such damned ratholes in the mountains of Wyoming. 
He managed to wriggle in, and sat in silence for a while, staring with 
unseeing eyes. Suddenly there was an outburst: he had discovered all 
the figures round him. Lazarus followed close behind and brought a 
flashlight, and we could now see the individual figures better. While 
a great number of the stones in Atan's cave were scratched and rubbed 
by washing and care, there was no sign of scratches or marks on any of 
the figures in Lazarus' cave. In Atan's cave I had felt as if I was entering 
a magician's secret parlor, with the mats on the shelves and the heaps 
of hay on the floor. Here it was like going into an old warehouse. 

We asked Lazarus if he did not wash the stones. No, there was no 
need to, because there was no growth here. This was a perfectly dry 
cave due to the current of air. 

Over by the little hole we noticed cold, dry air trickling in, and 
there was not the smallest scrap of green on the iron-hard walls, not 
even on the crumbling bones of the skeletons. In Atan's cave there was 
a fine layer of mold and moss on the wall beneath the entrance. 

We lost all count of time inside the cave. We chose some of the most 
interesting sculptures to take this time; we could come back for the rest. 
Lazarus and Bill crawled out to the ledge to receive the stones, while I 
was left behind to try to maneuver the stones through the narrow en- 
trance tunnel without marring them. This was much easier said than 
done. For to transport a lava sculpture without injury when crawling on 
the stomach in a narrow cave is a hopeless task unless you hold the light 
at the same time, and an extra hand is really needed for pushing yourself 
along as well. I realized now how skillful Lazarus had been when he 
had crawled out of here alone at night without scratching more than 
the muzzle of one stone beast. When at last I came to the cave mouth, 
after moving several stones in front of me inch by inch, I heard anxious 
cries from Bill, but his words were lost in the noise of the breakers. My 


way was blocked by my own sculptures, and I could not get further till 
Lazarus removed them from outside. When I peered past the sculp- 
tures, I thought I could distinguish his arm, and suddenly I discovered 
what had happened: outside it was dark. Night had come upon us. 

Lazarus removed the stones one by one, and sent them up to Bill. 
When the opening was clear, I crawled out and found a complete 
change of scene. It was barely possible to detect the outlines of the cliff 
in the faint light of a crescent moon. I had gooseflesh all over my body 
and was trembling at the knees when at last I stood safe up on the 
plateau. I tried to console myself with the thought that it was only the 
night chill. For it had been cold in the cave and cold to climb nude in 
the night wind. Lazarus went down yet again, this time with the two 
rolls of dress material. 

We flung on our clothes and regaled ourselves with hot coflfee from a 
thermos, while the photographer admired the night's haul. I noticed 
that Lazarus had begun to sniffle a little, and Bill confided to me that 
he too did not feel well. We both knew that the cocongo from the Pinto 
had begun to spread during the last few days; more serious cases were 
developing. I was really afraid that either Bill or Lazarus would now 
fall ill, and in that event, Lazarus, instead of gradually overcoming his 
inherited fear of al(u-af(u and taboo, would become more superstitious 
than ever. Bill had a jacket, so I gave mine to Lazarus and put the sack 
with the priceless haul on my back. 

Before we walked over to the horses, Lazarus made sure that no 
scraps of paper or other traces were left on the ground, and then our 
little caravan set off homeward in the faint moonlight. The sack was 
heavy and the going was incredibly rough, so I had more than enough 
to do to keep myself on the horse's back with only one stirrup. But 
when we came up onto the ancient trail I rode forward alongside Laz- 
arus and said he could see now that there was no al(u-a{u in the cave 
that wished us any harm. 

"That was because I went down beforehand and said the words, 11 
Lazarus replied calmly. 

What words Lazarus had said I never found out. Nor the object 
of undressing before going down into the drafty cave. Perhaps the a{u- 


Into the Secret Caves 

afa in the rock was a survivor of earlier times, accustomed to visitors 
wearing only a small loincloth. I dared not ask. For Lazarus believed 
that I knew all about afa-afas, just as well as he did, if not a good deal 

We rode on in silence, and our horses' hoofs clattered in the dark 
when we passed over the paved section of the road. Just afterward we 
heard the low creaking of the lonely windmill at Hanga-o-Teo. Driving 
clouds sped across the crescent moon which peered curiously down into 
my sack. The night was full of mystery. The wind was chilly, and we 
urged the horses forward as quickly as we could, without watering 
them at the mill. 

For Lazarus was coughing. 






Island in company with the a1(u-a1(us just at the time 
we were gaining entrance to the secret caves. This specter had appeared 
some weeks before; it came and went among the houses in the village, 
and no one could shut it out It became more and more daring, and 
soon it appeared too among our people in the tents at Anakena. Creep- 
ing in by the mouth and nose, it ran amok through the whole body. It 
had come to the island as a stowaway on the Pinto and sneaked ashore 
under the name cocongo. 

The mayor had been to his cave for stones only twice when the co- 
congo knocked at his door. He kept on his feet for several days, though 
feeling wretched; then he took to his bed. When I went to see him he 
declared with a bright smile that the cocongo was usually much worse 
and that he would soon be quite well A week later I went over to see 
him again, but learned he was in the village hospital. I called on the 
new village doctor who had come in the Pinto to relieve the other, and 


was shown into the little sickroom where the cocongo patients lay 
coughing. I did not see the mayor among them and was beginning to 
be anxious when over in a corner an emaciated man raised himself on 
his elbow and said in a hoarse voice: 
"Here I am, Seiior Kon-Tiki!" 

I was quite horrified when I recognized him. 

"Pneumonia," the doctor whispered. u He nearly died, but I think 
we're going to pull him through." 

The mayor lay there pale and hollow-cheeked with a peculiar, forced 
smile on his thin lips. He summoned me to the bedside with a feeble 
gesture and whispered in my ear : 

"It'll be all right. When I'm well again we'll do great things together. 
My granddaughter died of cocongo yesterday. Shell guide me from 
heaven, she will. This is no punishment, I realize that. Just wait, Seiior, 
we'll do great things." 

I left the hospital sick at heart. It had been terrible seeing the mayor 
in such a condition. He had been so odd, I did not quite understand 
what he had meant. Perhaps it was the fever that had given him that 
queer look in his eyes and made him talk so strangely. That the super- 
stitious man did not believe his illness to be punishment by the al^u-a^ii 
was of course excellent, but it was rather puzzling. 

The days passed. This wave of cocongo carried off no one except the 
mayor's granddaughter, and soon he was well enough to go home. 
When I went to see him, he smiled the same queer smile. He had no 
fever now, but he repeated all that he had said in the hospital. For the 
first few weeks he was too weak to return to us and his friends in the 
cave at Anakena. He stayed at home with his wife, and we regularly 
sent him butter and other nourishing food to help him to put on a little 
flesh again. 

The mayor's youngest brother, little Atan, slipped through the epi- 
demic with ease; he did not have even a touch of cocongo that year. 
And thus he rid himself of belief in punishment by the a{u-al(ti. He 
had been released from both the duties and menaces of the cave, but 
instead of punishment he had received a reward large enough to get 
his family through many a tight place in the future. By local standards 


Among Gods and Devils 

he was now a well-to-do man: both cloth and money were hidden in 
nature's big safe under the ground. And though the mayor had hung 
between life and death, Atan did not consider his brother's illness to be 
a cave punishment, either. On the contrary, Atan, who had no idea that 
his brother had brought me stones from his cave, was continually advis- 
ing me to ask him about his cave as soon as he was well, for it was sure 
to be the most important cave of all. 

Lazarus, however, was on the verge of illness. The morning after 
the ride from his cave he was outside my tent at an early hour. He asked 
me, coughing and hoarse, how I was. 

"Absolutely first-rate," I said, and saw Lazarus' face light up at once. 
I was glad he had not asked after Bill, for he was not at all well that 
day. Lazarus went about for two or three days, coughing and taking 
medicine, and then he was as fit as ever without ever having gone to 

While the village doctor was fighting the cocongo at Hangaroa, the 
expedition's doctor had his hands full with all our own workers, now 
nearly a hundred strong. We were well supplied with antibiotics and 
other medicines, which were increasingly popular with the natives. 
They were also very fond of headache tablets and ate them as candy if 
we did not keep an eye on them. Thus we rode out one wave of cocongo 
after another. But problems seldom come alone. Early in the epidemic, 
before we had seen a family cave, something else happened which 
caused a considerable stir in the village. 

On the last day before his illness, when the mayor was sitting in his 
house with a room full of cave stones waiting for transport to the camp, 
he had suffered a bad shock. Just before the captain arrived with the 
jeep, Gonzalo, our Chilean representative, had come to the door unex- 
pectedly and caught sight of a stone lobster before the mayor could 
hide it away. 

"This is old'' Gonzalo said, eagerly picking up the sculpture from the 

"No, it's new" lied the mayor. 

"I can see that it's old," said Gonzalo suspiciously. 


"I made it myself," the mayor insisted. 

At last Gonzalo had had to give way. 

When the mayor got to the camp, he told me at once of the episode 
with Gonzalo, and repeated that on no account must I say a single word 
to anyone about his having taken stones from the family cave. 

"Senor Gonzalo must have known something," the mayor said, 
troubled. "He was much too suspicious, and would hardly believe me 
when I said I had made the lobster myself." 

Later Gonzalo came to me in the tent and gave an account of the 
same episode. He thought he had unveiled the whole mystery of the 

"The mayor's deceiving you," Gonzalo said. "I've seen an incredibly 
fine lobster which he admits he made himself. You must be on your 
guard if he comes and says it's from the cave," 

Gonzalo was astonished when he heard that the mayor had already 
brought me the lobster and, in addition, had told me all about Gon- 
zalo's visit. 

The mayor was now on the alert, and tried to cover himself by 
continually saying that he personally made curious stone sculptures. 
When the cocongo began to be troublesome and he had just taken to his 
bed, he had a visit at home one evening from Gonzalo and Ed. They 
met the mayor's brother-in-law, Riroroko, inside the garden gate. They 
had hardly greeted him when he began, unprompted, to attest in a 
boasting fashion to the mayor's skill at carving stone sculptures; he had 
special tools with which he made lobsters and animals and boats, after- 
ward washing them and whipping them with banana leaves to make 
them look old. 

Neither Ed nor Gonzalo had asked for information about the may- 
or's stones, and they were therefore all the more amazed at this frank 
confession. They told me at once what they had heard. Meanwhile the 
mayor lay helpless in bed with a rising temperature, and was able 
neither to make nor fetch cave stones. But Gonzalo went about among 
the natives with ears wide open, trying to find out more. He was stay- 
ing in the village at the time, working with Bill at Vinapu. 

About this time young Estevan's pretty wife, the strong-minded 


Among Gods and Devils 

woman who had sent me the first cave stones, had recovered her health. 
Being cured of her abdominal trouble, she went to the cave with Este- 
van every night to fetch grotesque figures, which they stacked in a 
locked outhouse. I no longer asked to be taken into her family cave; in 
return she gave me important information about some of the stones 
which came from it. 

I had told Gonzalo that I was expecting a load of sculptures from 
her cave, and one evening when he was walking about and surveying 
the village, he saw a heap of uncut lava blocks stacked up behind the 
house of Estevan's neighbor. Smoldering suspicion blazed up. Gonzalo 
thought they had been left there by Estevan for making sculptures, and 
he decided to act. 

The same day a little nephew of Enlique's had been brought to the 
village hospital, severely burned by a kettle of melting pig's fat. Enlique 
too had brought me a little sack with cave sculptures, and it was he who 
later went with us into Atan's cave. The day after his nephew's accident, 
Enlique came to me with a gloomy face, which at once suggested that 
he wanted to blame me for the disaster, since I had persuaded him to 
go into the cave for stones. Now things were beginning to get compli- 
cated. On this island nearly everybody was mutually related in some 
way or another, and any mishap in the village could be interpreted as a 
punishment by someone who had broken a taboo. 

Enlique asked me to go with him behind the newly raised statue. 
"Something awful has happened now," he began in a low voice. 
"There's trouble in the village. Estevan and his wife do nothing but lie 
all day in their house weeping. Seiior Gonzalo has said that they have 
cheated Seiior Kon-Tiki, that they have made 'stones' themselves." 

"Rubbish," I said. "There's nothing for them to cry about. Ride over 
and tell Estevan and his wife that all is well. I'm not angry." 

"All is not well," Enlique said despairingly. "The whole village will 
soon be furious. If the stones are new, everyone will be angry with Este- 
van and his wife for trying to cheat Senor Kon-Tiki. And if the stones 
are old, everyone will be still angrier with them for removing things 
from a family cave. Everyone's bound to be angry with them now." 

Enlique said nothing about the child who had had the accident 


Evidently he regarded this as his brother's misfortune, not his own. 
And his brother had not brought me any stones, though I later learned 
that he too had a cave. 

That evening I was busy sealing up fresh pollen samples and could 
not leave the tents, but the next night the captain drove me into the 
village where we went to Estevan's hut. He was sitting alone on a 
bench, while his wife was lying on the bed; the eyes of both were red 
with weeping. We greeted them, but before Estevan could speak he 
burst into tears again. He declared that for two days and nights they 
had neither slept nor eaten, they had just wept, for Senor Gonzalo had 
said that Estevan had made false stones to deceive Senor Kon-Tiki. He 
had seen a heap of lava stones next door and thought that Estevan had 
collected materials for making sculptures. What he had not seen was 
that their neighbor was building an extension to the back of his house, 
and that the stones were being used to make the wall. 

I tried to console them as well as I could. We had brought several 
presents with us, and when we left, they both promised to have a meal, 
go to bed, and try to forget the whole thing. 

Lower down the path we went in and knocked at the mayor's door. 
We found him in bed, his good humor completely shattered. He had 
had a visit from his powerful aunt, Tahu-tahu. She had been in a tow- 
ering rage and said that he was a good lad, and so was Senor Kon-Tiki, 
and therefore he ought not to sell me fakes as rumored in the village. 
He had not been able to tell her that the stones he had given me were 
old, for he had not yet obtained her consent to take anything from 
Ororoina's family cave. So he had merely told her that he was a sick 
man; he would explain everything as soon as he was well again. 

"Other people get angry for a short time," said the mayor. "But old 
people like her get so angry that they can't speak for three days." 

He had given her a roll of cloth and a carton of cigarettes as a token 
of friendship from me, but she had just flung them on the floor and said 
she would take nothing he had obtained by fraud. Only when he had 
explained that the things were a direct gift from me to her, had the old 
woman picked them up again, and made for the door. 

We tried to talk the sick mayor into a calmer frame of mind, but 


Among Gods and Devils 

this was a waste of time. His old aunt was a generation ahead of him, 
with all the rights and all the wisdom this implied. Tahu-tahu was a 
dangerous woman. If she was angry, she could kill a man by burying 
a chicken's head. 

The rumors about Estevan and the mayor caused a great stir in 
the village. Many of the natives assured us that there were no secret 
caves in the island : we must not believe anything of the kind. If there 
had been any, the entrances had been lost long ago. If anybody brought 
me sculptures, they had made them themselves; there was nothing of 
the kind on their island. Some of those who came to deny the exist- 
ence of the caves were so sincere that they obviously believed what they 
said. But others made the opposite impression because of their nervous, 
almost panic-stricken efforts to induce us to believe them. Some of the 
older people in particular quite lost their heads in their eagerness to 
remove from our minds any suspicion that there was anything on the 
island today except sheep and statues. 

For several days one piece of information nullified another, while 
all who had contact with the natives cautiously attempted to get to the 
bottom of the problem. 

Ed came down to us one day from Orongo; he had again come 
round to the opinion that there must be secret family caves on the 
island; we must only be on our guard against imitations. He had man- 
aged to elicit from his native workers that it was usual for whatever 
was kept in caves to be taken out now and then to dry. Some of the 
objects were packed in totora reeds. 

Bill, too, had been utterly confused by all the rumors with which 
the village had been buzzing. To get more reliable information, he had 
left the governor's house and was lodging with a native family. He 
stopped me outside the church one Sunday and whispered: 

"I am sorry I can't speak freely, but I can say one thing: there are 
secret caves on this island, and they do contain things of the kind you 
have got." 

Arne suddenly recalled having been shown the area of "a lost cave 
full of small stone sculptures." He went straight back to his informant, 
old Pakomio, but now the frightened man refused to talk. 


The next to come to me was Gonzalo. He felt profoundly un- 
happy over all the row he had caused in the village. He had been posi- 
tive he had discovered that the cave sculptures were fraudulent, but 
something had now happened to make him change his mind : a strange 
experience of his own. A native boy had confided in him. The boy had 
been used by an old woman to climb down into a secret cave at Hanga 
Hemu, from which the woman wished to take figures for Senor Kon- 
Tiki. The boy had found a sculpture of a hen which lay as a kind of 
"key" stone in the first room of the cave, along with two skulls. But the 
tunnel into the next room had been blocked by fallen rock, so he did 
not get into the chamber where the old woman had said he should 
fetch some figures wrapped in plaited totora reed. 

Gonzalo had become very excited when he heard the story, and 
after much persuasion he secured the boy's promise to show him the 
place. Gonzalo found the cave exactly as the boy had described it, with 
the two skulls and an artificial opening in the sidewall, where the 
tunnel leading farther in was blocked. But he found more. Someone 
had been there after the boy and had dug desperately both in the floor 
and the roof over the place where the rocks had fallen. Gonzalo forced 
his way ten feet into a narrow crack above this spot, and at the end 
of the passage he found a hole recently dug straight down to the 
tunnel beneath. He had thrust his arm down into the hole, but man- 
aged to grab only a handful of loose earth; in the earth lay pieces of 
rotten totora reed. Someone had already removed the ancient reed 

By this time I had been in the first caves. I asked Gonzalo if he knew 
who the old woman was. Yes, he knew. It was Analola's mother. 

For me this was a valuable clue. It was Analola's mother and sister 
who had defended with tooth and claw the four great overturned stone 
heads when the young couple had found them in the field outside the 
village fence and wanted to sell them to me. The old woman had then 
furiously abused the finders as thieves of her family property, and had 
been delighted when I merely let the four grotesque faces roll back 
into position. Did she now want to show her gratitude by bringing 
me cave stones instead? 


Among Gods and Devils 

I thanked Gonzalo for this important piece of information, and left 
the village in the jeep together with the captain. I sat chuckling to 
myself. So Analola's mother had a cave. Fine. I had a special reason 
to take note of this. 

The evening sun had already sunk into the sea, and it was dark 
when we stopped on the high land at the Vaitea sheep farm on our 
way home. Analola managed the farm, and she always came out for a 
friendly chat when we called for water. She was the most influential 
woman on the island, an intelligent beauty with flowing black hair and 
smiling brown eyes. Perhaps her nose was too wide and her lips too 
full to win a beauty contest in our own world, but out here in the 
Pacific she was the uncrowned queen of Easter Island. She was able 
and honest: everyone respected Analola. 

When we drew up in front of the tap outside the wall at Vaitea, 
Analola and a couple of her girl friends came out with a light to help 
us draw the water. It was usually the captain who came to fetch it, 
and for the past few days Analola had been going on at him about the 
mayor having cheated Senor Kon-Tiki. 

"There are no such things as secret caves. There's no one on the 
island who has stone figures," Analola had declared. "I was born here 
and have lived here all my life, Capitdn. Tell Senor Kon-Tiki that he 
mustn't believe it." 

Analola was an honest soul who never cared for loose talk, and at 
last the captain began to get upset. 

"You sec, when Analola says it" he mused with a worried look. 
"The mayor is a bit of a rascal, you know." 

Analola was what the natives called "a child of our time." Of her 
ancestors' customs but little remained. She was civilized more than in 
dress and manner. Only once had I seen a spark of superstition in her 
brown eyes, 

"Is it true that you have talked to a stone statue?" she once asked 
me after the mayor, Lazarus, and I had found all the whales by the ahu 
at Anakena. "My mother says that a stone statue comes into your tent 
at night and tells you where to search." 
"Nonsense," I said. "A stone statue can't come into my tent." 


"Well, a little one could," said Analola. 

Now she stood shivering in the chill of the evening and held a light 
for us as we worked the hose from the tap into the hole of our water 

"How's your mother, Analola?" I asked cautiously. 
"Funny that you should ask that. She's just come to Vaitea to see 
me, and she's lying in my bed now." 

I took Analola gently by the arm and asked her in a whisper to 
come with me behind the jeep while the others filled the tank. I had 
suddenly got an idea. I knew the vivid Polynesian imagination and 
their bent for obscure, allegoric references to sacred things, of which 
it was not good form to speak openly. I also knew from Gonzalo's 
report that Analola's mother had taken a stone chicken from her cave, 
and I guessed that there was probably a sculpture of a dog there too, 
as these were motifs recurring in the mayor's, Lazarus', and Atan's 
cave stones. 

We went and stood under a dark eucalyptus tree. 
"Analola," I whispered, and she looked up at me with a sweet ex- 
pression. "Go in to your mother and give her this message from me: 
'Chicken is good, but dog is better.' " 

Analola stood completely bewildered. She stared at me with her 
lips apart for almost a minute; then she disappeared silently into the 
house. The water tank was full now. We waved to the other vahines 
and started off for Anakena. 

The next evening the captain went up for water as usual. He re- 
turned to camp with a detailed report. Analola had told him all that 
had happened the previous evening, and the captain repeated it in her 
own words. She said that I had first spoken to her quietly in the night. 
Then her heart had told her: "Surely, Senor Kon-Tiki wants to make 
love." But afterward, when I whispered to her that chicken was good 
but dog was better, she thought: "Surely, Senor Kon-Tiki must have 
taken much wine." Nevertheless she had gone in to her mother and 
given the message. And she had never seen her mother so queer. The 
old woman had sat up in bed with a jerk and replied: "That's why 
I'm here. To go into the cave with you and Daniel Ika. f> 


Among Gods and Devils 

Analola had been utterly perplexed. Nothing of the kind had ever 
happened to her before. Her mother was mama-tia to Daniel Ika, his 
aunt on his father's side. Analola had been so upset by what her mother 
had said that she had not slept all night. Next day her mother had 
come and asked her for two chickens, a piece of lamb, and four candles. 
When Analola asked if she was going to give a party, her mother had 
not replied. 

Next evening the skipper came with a fresh report: Daniel Ika had 
arrived at Vaitea the night before, and had slept at the sheep farm. 
Analola had peeped through the keyhole to his room and had seen 
that her mother was there as well. The two of them had been planning 
the visit to the cave, and Daniel had managed to persuade his aunt 
not to take Analola. She would bring "bad luck/' he had said, for 
Analola was a child of our time and would give her secrets away to 
anyone who could win her favors. 

They had decided to visit the cave two nights later, and had agreed 
where they should dig an umu to bake the hens. Analola had under- 
stood that this cave was at Vai-tara-kai-ua, which was just west of the 
Anakena Valley. 

"That's funny," the chief engineer said when the captain repeated 
the story at lunch. "The Second and I have often been for an evening 
walk over to the place with that queer name. It's so pretty there, with 
a little clump of green trees where wild chickens are often sitting 
about. Each time we've been there we've seen old Timoteo, the man 
who made the reed boats. He says he sleeps there at night because he's 
so fond of chicken." 

The night watch on board our ship told us that he had seen faint 
smoke from that direction the last few mornings. 

Then came the night when Analola's mother and Daniel Ika were 
to steal to the cave. They came back next morning with long faces. 
Analola told us that they had baked their chickens somewhere up on 
the plateau, but they had not got to the cave; they had found someone 
spending the night at Vai-tara-kai-ua. 

Exactly the same thing happened the next night. This time they 
had seen that the mysterious person was old Timoteo, and they guessed 


that he had a cave there himself and was watching the entrance so 
that Senor Kon-Tiki's men should not find it. Analola's mother had 
decided to make a third attempt, and if they were again unlucky, it 
was a sign that they ought not to enter the cave. In that case she and 
Daniel would give up and go back to the village. 

We learned from Analola when they were next to visit the cave 
at Vai-tara-kai-ua, and I decided to keep old Timoteo away from the 
place on that night. When the appointed evening approached, the sea 
was calm and glassy. Some of our men had been out by moonlight the 
night before catching rock lobster with native girl friends. This was 
one of the island's great delicacies: it is really a big lobster without 
claws. Our frogman could often spear it in underwater caves, but the 
simplest way was to wade breast-high in the water along the shore at 
night with flaming torches. The native vahines were very skillful at 
this. They trod on the great creatures and held them fast with their 
toes till they could plunge down to pick them up and put them in a 

That evening the cook had twenty-one big fellows in his pot, and 
we were going to have a lobster party in the mess tent. Lazarus had 
brought us a huge sack of newly gathered pineapples, the juiciest we 
had ever tasted. 

I had kept old Timoteo at work all that day. I sent him out to the 
ship to repair his own reed boat, which had been knocked about a 
good deal on deck before we hung it out of the way down in the hold. 
I now had no further need for the old man, but I wanted to keep him 
away from the valley. So when evening came, and Timoteo wanted 
to go ashore, I brought him a large meal and asked him purely as a 
ruse to take the night watch on board. 

"We're going to have a fiesta in the camp," I explained. "All hands 
are going ashore tonight to eat lobsters. The sea's quite calm, so nothing 
can happen." 

Timoteo did not look altogether happy. I had a feeling that the old 
man would be capable of taking a reed pora to swim ashore. I there- 
fore took him up to the barometer and placed a chair in front of it. 
"If the barometer goes down to that mark," I said, pointing to the 


Among Gods and Devils 
bottom figure to be on the safe side, "then you must blow the siren at 


Timoteo took his instructions in dead earnest. He sat down with 
his nose against the glass of the barometer and his eyes fixed rigidly 
on the needle while he swallowed his food. I knew that he would not 
move now. When the night watch and the engineers came on board 
again, they would see about sleeping quarters for him. 

While Timoteo sat dutifully staring at the barometer, we of the 
expedition were gathered at our lobster party in the mess tent, and 
up in the hills somewhere above Vai-tara-kai-ua Daniel and Analok's 
mother were creeping down the valley toward the cave. As I was 
picking out the meat from the last leg, I thought they must certainly 
have dug the baked fowl out of the earth oven by now and no doubt 
were moving on, taking the candles with them for use underground. 

The night passed. 

Early next morning Timoteo came ashore with the engineers. He 
said he must ride off at once to talk to his wife. 
"Where is she?" I asked. 

"In the village," he replied. He turned slowly and looked at me with 
a peculiar smile. Then he added : "But last night she may have slept at 
Vai-tara-kai-ua. Who knows?" 

This was a curious remark. 
"What's your wife's name?" I asked. 

"Her name is Victoria Atan. But she likes to call herself Tahu-tahu. 
And she is a bit tahu-tahu." 1 

Timoteo climbed up on his horse and rode off. 

The captain drove up to Vaitea for water extra early that day. The 
report he brought back was that Daniel and Analola's mother had re- 
turned to the village. They had given up all hope of getting into the 
cave at Vai-tara-kai-ua unseen. When they had made their final attempt 
the night before, Timoteo was gone, but his old wife had been there. 

How Timoteo had managed to warn Tahu-tahu we never dis- 
covered. She relieved him only for that one night. But the old man 

1 Tahu-tahu or tahu means "sorcery" or "witchcraft." 


continued to guard the little valley zealously so long as we were on 
the island. The veil of secrecy lies undisturbed over the two family 
caves at Vai-tara-kai-ua. It is for Timoteo, Tahu-tahu, and Analola's 
old mother to decide whether they will try to hand on the secret to their 
own "children of our time." And they must decide soon. For if any- 
thing happens to these aged people, two caves with all their irreplace- 
able contents will be lost forever in the depths of Easter Island. 

Daniel Ika had a twin and one half-brother. The twin was Alberto: 
it was he who had shown two rongo-rongo tablets in the village and 
put them back in the cave because he was invaded by afyi-akus at night. 
The half-brother was called Enlique Ika : he was of royal blood and had 
the right to the noble title Arity-paJia. Both Father Sebastian and the 
governor had pointed him out as a unique specimen, because he simply 
could not tell a lie. This was a rare virtue on Easter Island. Among us 
in the camp he was known as the "Royal Son," by reason of his proud 
nature, his stately appearance, and his noble birth. He could not read, 
but his unshakable honesty had made him the Navy's most respected 
shepherd, and he lived in a stone hut on the road to Rano Raraku. 

One day after the cocongo had passed, he came riding in and offered 
to make a trade. We had some stout pine beams which we used to 
support the tall statues when we dug around their bases. He wanted 
to build himself a new house with these. If I was willing to trade I 
should get a fat ox for every third beam. 

"You shall have all the beams if you'll give us cave stones in ex- 
change," I said. 

This was quite a random shot, a sudden inspiration. I had no idea 
whether the "Royal Son" had a cave at all, or even knew what cave 
stones were. He was completely taken by surprise and wriggled for a 
moment in a desperate attempt to lead the conversation into other 
channels. But I stuck to my offer, and as he realized there was no 
escape, he said firmly: 

"But I don't know where the entrance is. I wish I did know, Senor 

"Have you tried to bake a chicken in an umu tatypu?" I asked 

Among Gods and Devils 

sternly. "Have you tried to make tahu in front of the cave?" 

He was utterly flabbergasted. His expression changed completely. 
"I'll talk to my brothers/' he said at last. "I can't decide myself. I 
have only a share." 

I learned that the entrance to one of his family caves had been lost. 
But he and his brother Daniel were sort of "sleeping partners" in 
another cave, the entrance to which only Alberto knew. The "Royal 
Son" knew that the stones there were in packages of totora reeds, and 
that the cave also contained rongo-rongo and some old paddles. But the 
finest objects were a stone sailing vessel which he referred to as a 
va\a oho, and a statue of smoothly polished black stone, so large that 
it reached up to a man's stomach. 

The "Royal Son" had searched for the cave many a time, for 
Alberto refused to show the entrance to his brothers. He did not mind 
sitting in the village describing the position of the cave to them, but 
he dared not point it out on the spot for fear the a%u-a\u would see him. 

Several days passed before the "Royal Son" appeared again. Then one 
day he came riding in with some large melons, and while he was un- 
loading them he whispered across the back of the horse that he would 
be able to get me some old figures. His wife had been weeping and 
complaining for several days because she had an incompetent husband 
who could not find his own family cave. When nothing availed, and 
her husband always came home empty-handed, she had set to work on 
her own old uncle instead, and begged him for help, so that they could 
get beams for a new house. She had heard from her grandmother that 
the uncle knew the entrance to a cave in which she herself had a share, 
because her father was dead. The uncle, who was living with them in 
the stone hut at the time, grew weary of all this weeping. The upshot 
of it was that the old man promised to show them the way to the cave. 

The uncle was old Santiago Pakarati, who had helped his brother 
Timoteo build the reed boats. The four old brothers were now working 
for me a$ fishermen. Since I had to provide full board for the natives 
who were digging at Rano Raraku, I carried on the tradition cus- 
tomary in the stonecutters' time: I selected a special team with no other 
duties than to work in shifts day and night catching fish and lobsters 


for all the men in the quarry. This helped us to stretch the meat, rice, 
and sugar, which were coming ashore from the ship in alarming quan- 
tities. Finally we had to keep all the flour for our own use. Only the 
four Pakarati brothers came to the camp regularly to receive stale bread 
which they dipped in coffee and ate as cake. We had become especially 
friendly with old Santiago, who was in the camp every day and col- 
lected his brothers' bread and tobacco rations. 

We had once attempted to simplify the rationing system by making 

the distribution once a week instead of daily. But such an arrangement 

was not practicable on Easter Island. The whole native labor force 

sat up all night eating and smoking, and came to work next day with 

green faces, having consumed the whole week's ration. They had passed 

a splendid night, but then Santiago declared that they must have more 

cigarettes, or they would go for a whole week with nothing to smoke. 

Everyone was pleased when we introduced daily rations again : saving 

is an incomprehensible idea. Let the morrow take care of itself. Ha{a-le 

was the island's motto. It means something like u never mind." A native 

would say it if he lost his knife, smashed a bowl or indeed, if his whole 

house burned down. 

In this easygoing atmosphere of ha\a-le, the at(u-a{us seemed sadly 

out of place. The natives accordingly did all they could to avoid them, 

though nothing to get rid of them. They lurked on the cliffs, a blot on 

the general happiness. Old Santiago was a carefree character, always 

satisfied with life and ready to joke and laugh. But his face fell into 

gloomy furrows and he grew almost angry when Arne wanted to camp 

alone by the crater lake in Rano Raraku. Santiago would not at any 

price have set foot inside the statue crater alone at night, for a%u-a{us 

lurked behind the statues and they would whistle at him from the 

reeds in the lake. I was therefore particularly surprised that old "Uncle 

Santiago" was the one who had now offered to accompany us to a cave. 

It was late at night when the jeep stopped at the little stone hut on 

the road to Rano Raraku. I had chosen Arne among the archaeologists 

because he knew Santiago best. The captain, the second officer, and 

Sanchez from Chile were with us too, in the hope that they might also 

be allowed in the cave. The "Royal Son' 1 came out of his hut quickly 


Among Gods and Devils 

with his wife and a young man who, they explained, was Santiago's 

"But where is Santiago?" 

"He's ill. He can't come. But he has explained to his son where the 

cave is." 

I knew that old story. It was a disappointing change in the program 
which never led to any result. I went into the hut to see how ill Santiago 
was. There he sat squatting on the floor in a corner, staring ahead with 
a sad expression. He gave a dry, forced cough when he saw me come 
in. Santiago had no sign of fever, and there was nothing else to indicate 
that the old man was ill. But it was easy to see that he profoundly re- 
gretted what he had promised to do. 

"Santiago, you're as fit as a tunafish, you old rascal. Surely you aren't 
afraid of the afa-afas when I'm with you?" 

Santiago eagerly grabbed a cigarette and whinnied so hard that all 
the smile wrinkles moved up to his ears like the folds of an accordion. 

"I've got a pain in my back, Senor." 

"Then you must give up smoking." 

"It isn't that bad." 

I went on chaffing the old man for a long time until, half-resisting, 
he came out and crawled into the jeep with an uncertain grin. Now 
we were nine in the jeep. Santiago sat squeezed in by my side, silent 
and grave, and showed the way. From Rano Raraku we turned off 
along the south coast and followed some faint cart ruts along the edge 
of the cliff. We had to hold on tight, for although it was almost impos- 
sible to see the track, it was very easy to feel it. 

"This isn't a cave for hiding things, Senor," said the old man sud- 
denly, in the hope of my losing interest. 

"Isn't there anything in it, then?" 

"Oh, yes, a little. I haven't been there since I was seventeen. An ol$ 
woman showed me the place before she died." 

The old man asked us to stop the jeep before we came to Vaihu, and 
we covered the rest of the way on foot. There was bright moonlight 
when we went down to the edge of the cliff. Again I saw silver-gray 
breakers in the night, hammering away at the lava barricade beneath 


us. Santiago was carrying a homemade rope ladder, composed of two 
thin ropes with a few irregular sticks as rungs. Right out on the edge 
of the cliff he was handed a bag by the "Royal Son's" wife, and he took 
out the familiar baked chicken wrapped in banana leaves. He asked me 
to eat the tail, because it was "to me" he was showing the cave. There 
were baked sweet potatoes in the bag too, but only the chicken's bony 
tail stump was eaten, and I was the only one to taste anything. The 
rest of the delicious chicken was left behind on a rock. 

Then the old man suddenly began to sing a monotonous song in a 
subdued voice over the cliffside toward the sea. The tune stopped 
abruptly, as if broken off in the middle. Then he turned quietly to 
me and said I must promise to leave one thing behind in the cave. 
It did not matter what it was, but something must be left there. This 
was "the law," he explained. The cave was his. There were some dis- 
tant relatives of his lying inside. That was why he had sung the name 
of the legal owner of the cave for the afa-afa. 

Santiago slipped the top rung of the rope ladder over a block of 
lava right on the edge of the plateau, and flung the rest of it over the 

I lay prone with my head over the edge and turned the flashlight 
downward. We were on an overhang, for the rope ladder was dangling 
loose in the air just below. Santiago ordered only his son to undress, 
keeping merely his shorts on. He was to go down first. It was difficult 
to get a grip where the ropes stretched tight near the edge, and the few 
rungs were a long way apart. The roaring breakers were only thirty 
feet below, but a drop of even six feet would have been enough for a 
man to kill himself on the jagged lava in the surf. 

About twelve feet below us the descending man vanished. The rope 
ladder hung empty. I reached as far out as I could with the light, but 
saw nobody. He had obviously left the ladder and crept into a hole in 
the cliff. When the "Royal Son" followed suit, he too disappeared from 
the ladder at the same place. When I was about to descend, we saw to 
our astonishment that the "Royal Son" was on the ladder again, 
climbing up as fast as fingers and toes could get a grip. 
"Did you see anything?" I asked. 


Among Gods and Devils 

"Yes, a long tunnel going into a cave." 

"And what was in the cave?" 

"Oh, I didn't see. I didn't go in, for I'm not used to caves." 

"Because he isn't used to caves, he's afraid of the devils," old Santiago 

And the "Royal Son" had to admit that this was so. His wife looked 
at him in alarm and was clearly glad to have him back. 

When I was on my way down the rope ladder, I was quite as 
frightened as my native predecessor. But my fear was due to rather 
different causes. I thought of the lump of lava which held the ladder 
as I struggled with the stick rungs which were set wide apart and 
often were tightly pressed against the rock. Not till I had a knee bent 
up to my chin could I reach the next rung with the tip of my toe. I 
was soon down to the point at which the ladder hung suspended in the 
air away from the rock, and immediately I caught sight of the narrow 
hole in the cliff face. 

Holding tight with a hand on each rope I had to work my body 
through the dangling ladder till the tips of my toes reached into the 
little hole. I managed to push my legs in as far as the thighs, but with 
my whole body swaying in the air and my arms clinging to the ladder, 
I could get no purchase. The rope ladder only swung farther from the 
cliff if I pushed at it. I had hardly any back left when at last I had 
wriggled and squeezed in as far as my waist. Now I could let go of 
the dangling rope with one hand while I fumbled for a hold on the 
rock wall with the other. The rope swung away as if it wanted to drag 
me out of the hole again until finally I let go with the other hand too. 
There I hung, face upward, half inside the rock and half outside. This 
part of the trip had been child's play for the "Royal Son." Not till I 
was inside the rock up to my neck did I feel easy. I breathed a sigh of 
relief when I had shoved myself some yards into the crack to where 
it opened into a cave half the height of a man. It was at this very point 
that the "Royal Son" had become scared and had retreated. 

Santiago's son had lit a candle inside. When I sat up in the cave, 
I saw that we were surrounded by skeletons. Here Santiago's distant 
relatives lay. They had been packed in totora-rttd mats which were 


now brown and quite rotten; they fell to bits if we touched them. Some 
of the bones inside had a curious blue-green color. I saw that small 
packages of the same decomposed reed lay alongside two skeletons 
which were stretched side by side at my knees. I felt one package cau- 
tiously with my fingers; the reeds were brittle and crumbled at the 
slightest pressure, but there was something hard inside. 

At this moment we nearly had a fatal accident. Arne was now busy 
doing acrobatics at the entrance to the cave. While struggling desper- 
ately to get himself free of the rope ladder and into the narrow hole, 
he broke a rib. He broke it so emphatically that he afterward insisted 
he had heard it crack, and the pain was so intense that he was barely 
able to retain his grip on the ladder. 

We got Arne into the cave, and what he saw almost made him 
forget his pain. He crawled about patiently in the low, uncomfortable 
grotto. It was incomprehensible how in old days they had managed 
to get their dead down the cliff and into the narrow hole. 

Father Sebastian had told me of natives who had crawled into caves 
like this when they knew death was near. After Christianity was intro- 
duced in the last century, with compulsory burial in the churchyard 
at Hangaroa, some of the old people had stolen into their secret caves 
so that their skeletons might remain there, hidden forever. The last 
person who had succeeded in burying himself alive in his cave was a 
man known as Teave, grandfather to people still living. 

But the skeletons we had round us now had been wrapped in reed 
mats. The relatives must have let these dead down the cliff with ropes, 
while other natives, lying in the passage, had drawn the bodies in 
after them. 

The captain, the second officer, and Sanchez had also come in. 
Only Santiago and the disheartened "Royal Son" with his wife re- 
mained on the plateau above us. We photographed and made sketches 
as well as we could under the low roof, and then we began to examine 
the cave's contents. Here and there skeletons lay stretched out on the 
floor, and the only burial goods which accompanied them were evi- 
dently the small parcels of reeds. A few of the parcels were already 
completely disintegrated, so we could see what was inside. 


Among Gods and Devils 

The largest parcel contained a female figure carved in stone. From 
another a double face peered out, with four eyes and two noses which 
vanished in a curve round the stone and met as spearheads on the other 
side. At the far end of the cave lay a solitary skeleton with a parcel 
beside it, and the plaited reeds had kept so well that large pieces held 
together when we took it all with us. Inside the parcel was a sculpture 
of a lobster, like the one which had started all the row about the 
mayor's cave stones. Perhaps it was an old fisherman who lay here 
in the corner with his favorite magic stone, since a fisherman would 
have a special interest in increasing the power and fertility of 

There were only ten sculptures in this cave and all had been packed 
in reeds. Two of them were almost alike, a small statue of a standing 
man with a bird's beak. We left one of these behind in accordance 
with our promise to old Santiago. 

To crawl out into the cool night again, we had to lie on our backs 
and kick ourselves along headfirst. Next, to reach the rope ladder, we 
had to edge ourselves out of the hole until the back was unsupported 
from the waist up, our arms stretched over our heads. Then we had 
to swing ourselves out and up the dangling ladder. It was an unpleas- 
ant piece of acrobatics with the surf below us and only the moon pro- 
viding light. Unpleasant was a mild word when Arne's turn came, 
with his broken rib. But all went well, and the three who stood waiting 
anxiously up on the cliff thought merely that Arne was stiff after his 

We had carefully packed the contents of the cave, and now we 
hauled them up with the aid of ropes. When the last load was up, and 
Santiago had made sure that we had left one thing down below, I 
caught sight of the chicken which lay on the rock. The smell tempted 
me irresistibly. I was not going to let the a\u-a\u have this. And the 
a\u-a\u took no revenge when I helped myself freely to his portion and 
shared it with my men. But the natives refused to touch a scrap of it 
and kept away with worried looks until the last gnawed bone was 
hurled into the sea. Then the woman began to pluck up courage. She 
laughed with contempt at her husband for having been afraid to crawl 


into the cave. The farther she got from the cliff, the bolder she became. 
And as we sat squeezed together in the jeep, bumping home in the 
moonlight, I felt sorry for the proud man in the back seat. His wife 
jeered and laughed and teased him till he could not help smiling at 
himself. He shook his head and declared that he would never be so 
silly again. Now he knew better. Never again in his life would he let 
himself be frightened by ghosts and devils. He would go straight home 
and build the family a new house. 

There was another person on the island who was more accustomed 
to converse with devils than the "Royal Son." As it happened, it was 
the mayor's youngest brother, little Atan, who introduced me to him 
and unconsciously dragged me right into a hornets' nest. When he had 
disposed of his own cave and obtained more useful things in exchange, 
he was no longer in doubt that it brought "good luck" to get rid of 
the underground business altogether. Atan had many friends in the 
village, everyone liked Atan, and he tried with the greatest caution 
to worm out of them information as to who had a cave. 

One evening I was on my way, with other members of the expe- 
dition, to a party at the governor's house. Atan and the mayor were 
with us in the jeep; we had offered to drop them off at the village. 
Atan had recently told me that he had long suspected his brother-in- 
law, Andres Haoa, of having a cave. Now at last his suspicion had been 

"Do you remember Andres Haoa, Senor Kon-Tiki?" he had said. 
"It was he who showed you fragments of ipu maengo. All the time he 
has had those pieces, and the whole jars he showed to Father Sebastian, 
hidden in his cave." 

For Andres Haoa to be the man was a most unfortunate circum- 
stance. He had been greatly offended by me because I had accused him 
of trickery, and not given him the full reward the time he had strewn 
tiny bits of pottery fragments in our excavation at Ahu Tepeu. Little 
Atan realized this, but proposed that I should send Andres Haoa a 
present, which he felt sure would put things straight. I handed Atan 
two cartons of cigarettes and a few dollars, and it was agreed that I 

Lazarus and I before the only giant on the island now standing at his 
post. This is the huge statue raised by the long-ears in the Anakena Valley 
at King Hotu Matua's site. Hundreds of statues once stood on walls all 
round the island, but all of them were flung down during the civil wars in 

into the cave. The farther she got from the cliff, the bolder she became. 
And as we sat squeezed together in the jeep, bumping home in the 
moonlight, I felt sorry for the proud man in the back seat. His wife 
jeered and laughed and teased him till he could not help smiling at 
himself. He shook his head and declared that he would never be so 
silly again. Now he knew better. Never again in his life would he let 
himself be frightened by ghosts and devils. He would go straight home 
and build the family a new house. 

There was another person on the island who was more accustomed 
to converse with devils than the "Royal Son." As it happened, it was 
the mayor's youngest brother, little Atan, who introduced me to him 
and unconsciously dragged me right into a hornets' nest. When he had 
disposed of his own cave and obtained more useful things in exchange, 
he was no longer in doubt that it brought "good luck" to get rid of 
the underground business altogether. Atan had many friends in the 
village, everyone liked Atan, and he tried with the greatest caution 
to worm out of them information as to who had a cave. 

One evening I was on my way, with other members of the expe- 
dition, to a party at the governor's house. Atan and the mayor were 
with us in the jeep; we had offered to drop them off at the village. 
Atan had recently told me that he had long suspected his brother-in- 
law, Andres Haoa, of having a cave. Now at last his suspicion had been 

"Do you remember Andres Haoa, Senor Kon-Tiki?" he had said. 
"It was he who showed you fragments of ipu maengo. All the time he 
has had those pieces, and the whole jars he showed to Father Sebastian, 
hidden in his cave." 

For Andres Haoa to be the man was a most unfortunate circum- 
stance. He had been greatly offended by me because I had accused him 
of trickery, and not given him the full reward the time he had strewn 
tiny bits of pottery fragments in our excavation at Ahu Tepeu. Little 
Atan realized this, but proposed that I should send Andres Haoa a 
present, which he felt sure would put things straight. I handed Atan 
two cartons of cigarettes and a few dollars, and it was agreed that I 


Lazarus and I before the only giant on the island now standing at his 
}>ost. This is the huge statue raised by the long-ears in the Anakena Valley 
at King Hotu Mania's site. Hundreds of statues once stood on walls all 
round the island, but all of them were flung down during the civil wars in 
the third epoch of Easter Island's history. 

ABOVE: A group of long-cars, who arc directly descended from the builders 
of the statues. From left to right: the mayor's brother Atan, the mayor 
himself, Hei, the mayor's red-haired son Juan, Lazarus, and Enliquc. 
BELOW: A giant on the move. The mayor organized the dinner guests in 
the Anakena Valley to pull a newly excavated statue on a trial run. 

Among Gods and Devils 

should come to Alan's house when the governor's party was over late 
that night. Meanwhile Atan would try to arrange a meeting. 

Just before midnight I left the governor's bungalow. I had informed 
him that I was taking part in secret trips to the island underworld, 
but that I was pledged to silence and could give no complete report 
till it was all over. The governor was grateful for the information and 
somewhat relieved. He had heard the strange rumors which were 
going about in the village, but queer things were always being said in 
Hangaroa, and no one took the native gossip seriously. 

At midnight I entered Atan's little hut. He opened the door him- 
self, and the first thing I saw in the light of a flickering candle was 
my old "enemy" Andres Haoa, unshaven and bristly, staring at me 
with bloodshot eyes. He jumped up from the bench, embraced me and 
called me brother, assuring me that he would give me all the help he 
could. The tiny room was full of big words. Good-natured little Atan 
flung out his chest and boasted of his own mana: it was he who had 
saved the friendship between us two who now met again in his house. 
He had inherited his powerful mana from his mother. She had chosen 
him to take over all the strength of her soul; she had liked him best 
of all her children, although he was the youngest. 

He told me that Andres Haoa had been quite beside himself when 
he saw my gifts of friendship. Andres himself admitted that he had 
wept for joy when he received the presents and heard the message of 
reconciliation. He had been in an awkward corner that time when, 
purely as a friendly act, he had brought me a fragment of real maengo, 
for I had at once demanded that he should show me the place where 
he had found it. Of course, he could not show me his family cave, and 
that was where it had come from. He was therefore compelled to take 
us to another place to draw attention from his cave. 

Andres' story did not sound improbable. 

And now Andres had heard so much from Atan that he would like to 
give me the "key," that I might see the pottery with my own eyes. But 
he had a younger brother who was as hard as flint, and he must first be 
won over to my side. This younger brother was the chief of the cave. 
He had been given the "key" by their father, although he was not the 

eldest. He "lived with" the af(u-af(u and had been very annoyed when 
Andres had called at his home that evening to suggest they give the 
"key" to Senor Kon-Tiki. 

"Let us go to his brother together," little Atan proposed. "We should 
be able to persuade him with our combined mana? 

I was wearing white tropicals for the party, but now changed into a 
darker shirt and shorts I had with me, and then we all three sneaked 
out into the night away from the village in a northerly direction. We 
walked and walked in the moonlight, and the more we walked and 
whispered, the more fervent became the talk of friendship and brother- 
hood. Atan had unlimited confidence in our combined mana, and he 
declared that he himself was a more genuine Norwegian long-ear 
than I. 

During the conversation both of them cautioned me that if Andres' 
younger brother, Juan Haoa, tried to lead me into a trap by giving me 
the "key" to the cave, I was to say no, and cross my arms. If he then 
gave the "key" to his older brother Andres, I was to accept it with 
thanks from him. 

Outside the village we came to a desolate region, where at last we 
stopped before a high stone wall. Behind the wall great glistening 
banana leaves stretched up stiff and motionless against the moon, and 
half-hidden among the trees lay a low whitewashed stone hut. There 
were no windows and the place had a sinister, uninhabited look. 
Nothing indicated that anyone lived there. A rotten ladder, with some 
of its rungs broken, led up the stone wall and over the other side. 

Little Atan braced himself: he was to go in first and announce our 
arrival. The ladder gave a nasty creak as he climbed over the wall; a 
moment later he was at the door, knocking slowly and cautiously. We 
saw a glimmer of light from the crack of the door as someone let him 

Atan was gone for five minutes. He came out alone, and when he 
was with us again, he looked forlorn and miserable. Andres* younger 
brother had been terribly difficult. We must all three go in and get our 
combined a1(u-al(us to work on him. We climbed over the wall and 
went up to the hut together. I entered first, with the other two at my 


Among Gods and Devils 

heels. In a room furnished with nothing but a white-painted table and 
three short benches we were confronted by two tough-looking fellows 
who stared at us with hostile expressions. They appeared ready for any- 
thing except a joke. One might have been about thirty, the other a little 
over forty. 

I said good evening, and they returned my greeting without stirring, 
without moving even a muscle of their faces. The younger stood erect, 
head back, with a grave expression, like an Indian in a Wild West film. 
He had piercing black eyes, and round his mouth and chin he had a 
black stubbly beard, just as his brother behind me. It was unusual to see 
a beard on the island, even if the mayor, Atan, and some others had 
managed to grow mustaches. He stood straddle-legged with his arms 
inside the opening of his shirt, so that part of his chest was bare. He 
gave me a penetrating look with half-shut eyes and said, slowly and in- 
tensely, like a man in a trance: 
"Watch my a1{u-al{u. This is the a\u-a\us house." 

Now I should have to keep a cool head. I had put my foot into it, 
and the expressions of those fellows showed unmistakably that I was in 
it up to my neck. 
"I know," I said. "I can see." 

He brushed my remark aside as if in irritation, and took a few slow 
steps toward me in a challenging manner till he was looking right into 
my face. Then he almost hissed, with suppressed, quivering anger: 
"Show me your af(u-a^us power!" 

It was evident that Atan had been talking big about me and my 
a\u-al{u\ the four men expected to see a miracle. Their expressions were 
eager and tense, with contemptuous challenge too in the bearded face 
which was now so close to my own. He gave the impression of being 
drunk, but he was not. He was in a state of self-hypnosis, almost in a 
trance. He was his own a{u-al(u. 

I went two inches nearer till our chests almost touched, and then 
took a deep breath to be equal to the situation. 

"If your a\u-al(u is as powerful as mine," I said, putting the same 
note of suppressed contempt into my voice, "you can send him out 
through the door. Send him up to the top of Orongo. Down into the 


crater of Rano Kao. Across the plain at Vinapu. To the statues in Rano 
Raraku. To Anakena, Hangaroa, all round the island. Ask him if the 
island is changed. Ask him if everything has not become better. Ask 
him if old walls and buildings have not reappeared, and unknown 
statues risen up out of the ground. When you get your afa-afa's answer, 
I'll ask you: Do you need any more proof of my a\u-a\us power?" 

The man did not hesitate for a moment. He promptly agreed. He 
asked me to sit beside him on one of the benches. 

Little Atan felt quite confident again. He and Andres at once began 
to ask the brother to give me the "key," and soon the other fellow 
joined them too and politely suggested that I ought to get it. But the 
principal player sitting beside me did not move a muscle and did not 
condescend to listen to what they said. He sat with folded arms as on a 
golden throne, bolt upright with mouth shut tight and lips protruding 
exactly like the great statues! Through pure autosuggestion he had in- 
flated himself in his own and his friends 1 eyes, like a self-worshiping 
medicine man or priest-king brought out of the mists of antiquity and 
thrust into shirt and trousers. 

The other three stood before him begging him for the "key," but he 
ignored them completely. They kept on begging him with hands out- 
stretched as in humble prayer: one of them, indeed, went down on his 
knees before him in supplication. 

The man beside me sat for a long time enjoying the others 1 obei- 
sance. He sat there as if basking in sunlight, slowly turning his head 
from one side to the other. Now and again he turned to me stiffly and 
emphasized his claim to immense spiritual power, to mana. His super- 
natural strength came from many sources, for he had in his veins blood 
of two of the most important tribes. And this was the afa-at(u's house. 
He was surrounded by a{u-a{us who protected him on all sides. Behind 
him he had the mightiest a{u-a{u in the island: he lived in front of old 
Tahu-tahu's hut, and she was his wife's aunt. The two had no other 
living neighbors. A little farther down to the right was a deserted hut; 
it belonged to a woman who had died, and only an a{u-a{u lived there 
now. He had one behind him, one on each side, and one in the house. 
An uncanny glow came into the bearded fellow's eyes. The more 


Among Gods and Devils 

he blew himself up the more dangerous and fanatical he became, so I 
hastened to interrupt him. Now I started to brag: it was just as if I 
had borrowed his pump and was using it to inflate my own reputation. 
The air gradually went out of my neighbor as he listened. 

I told him that I had inherited a powerful mana from Teriieroo, my 
mighty father by adoption, the last great chief of Tahiti. Before he died 
he gave me the royal name Terai Mateata, or "Blue Sky." And when 
our raft landed on Raroia ten years later, I got still more mana, for a 
feast was held in memory of Tikaroa, the first island king, and I was 
adopted as Varoa Tifaroa, the "Spirit of Tikaroa." 

No more was needed; the bearded fanatic at last gave way. He rose 
slowly, and the rest of us did the same. Then he pointed to his big 
solemn friend and said: 
"Tumu, bear witness!" 

I had read of the word tumu before. It was not a name, but a title. 
Earlier explorers had mentioned it as a mystic word dating from the 
original social system of Easter Island, a word which even the natives 
no longer quite understood and could not explain. Now a tumu stood 
before me in the flesh. His functions were not buried with the past: 
here he was in full activity. Atan told me afterward that this man, Juan 
Nahoe, was tumu for the Haoa family. He was arbitrator and judge in 
the brothers' family affairs. 

The bearded fanatic drew himself up close in front of me, and 
Tumu stepped silently beside him. 

"Hereby I transfer to you the 'key' to one of my two caves," he said in 
a sepulchral voice, as if pronouncing a sentence of death. 

The others stood silent as the grave and even the flame of the candle 
did not flicker. 

Now this was a dilemma. Was this the moment when I was sup- 
posed to fold my arms and say no? Verbally he offered me the "key"; 
but he did not hand it to me, nor did I see it. I hesitated for a moment, 
and then replied dryly, "Thank you," without moving a finger. He 
stood motionless for a long time, peering at me with his jet-black eyes. 
Then he quickly turned and marched out of the door with such stern 
pride in his bearing that he almost leaned backwards. 

2 93 

The other three seemed unspeakably relieved. Little Atan wiped 
away the sweat trickling down his brow, though the only source of 
warmth was the little candle now flickering in the wake of the departed 
man. Eagerly gesticulating and relaxed, the three left in the room were 
a marked contrast to the one who had just stalked out. 

A few minutes passed, and then the unpleasant fellow came back 
with a light flat parcel under his arm, and a heavy basket in his hand. 
Both were made of plaited totora reed. He gave the flat parcel to his 
brother, who laid it on the table, and then he stood motionless in front 
of me again, holding the basket. I also remained entirely motionless, 
with no expression but defiant contempt and utter indifference. 

He turned abruptly to his elder brother Andres and gave him the 
basket. Andres handed it on to me, and I accepted it, thanking the 
younger brother for having first given the "key" to his elder brother 
and not directly to me. The aggressive fellow did not seem to be at all 
mollified. He stood for another moment or two without speaking. Then 
he pointed to the parcel on the table and subjected me to a new ordeal. 

"What is inside this parcel?" he demanded. "Show your afa-afa's 

Once more all four were standing round me, staring and tense. I 
racked my brains. It was like a horrible nightmare; I felt that anything 
might happen if I did not pass the test. The parcel was as large as a 
briefcase and much too flat to contain any stone or wooden object. It was 
made of nicely plaited reeds and had seemed as light as a large envelope 
when Andres laid it on the table. I realized that what I had in my hand 
must be the "key" to the cave, and I took it for granted that the parcel 
on the table also came from the cave. The plaiting of both parcel and 
basket were exactly the same. 

I thought of the pretty feather work the natives had often brought 
us. They were copies of old feather hats and long strings of feathers 
used in dancing. Early visitors to Easter Island had seen prominent men 
with waving crowns of feathers on their heads, wearing feather cloaks, 
just like the kings in ancient Mexico and South America. Was it pos- 
sible that there was something of this kind, but more recent, in Andres' 
cave? Feather work was certainly not a bad guess. But if so, was it a 


Among Gods and Devils 

headdress or what? The others waited, faces taut with excitement. I 
must stand the test. 

"My afyi-afa says con pluma, 'with feather/ " I said cautiously, 
trying not to be too specific. 

"No!" the fanatic snarled. "No!" he repeated in a frenzy. "Ask your 
a\u-al{u again!" 

Triumphant, he crouched forward like a cat about to spring, and 
enjoyed the situation with an angry grin on his face. Little Atan wiped 
away the beads of sweat and looked quite desperate. He gazed at me 
entreatingly, as if to tell me that now I must do everything I could to 
make my atyi-afyi see reason. 

Tumu and Andres seemed menacingly suspicious, and they too had 
slowly drawn nearer. I did not like the situation. These people were 
fanatical, and I had, uninvited, poked my nose into the most inflam- 
mable recesses of their private lives. If anything happened, not a soul 
knew where I was. From this remote hut not a sound would reach the 
village. My friends would think that I had fallen over a cliff or been 
trapped in a secret cave. Nowhere in the world were there so many 
hiding places in which a man could disappear forever without leaving a 

I had no idea what the parcel contained. It could only be pure guess- 
work. Could it be tapa, or bark cloth ? 

"Something to wear," I hazarded. 

"No! Ask your afyt-afa once more and ask well!" 
They all drew closer to me in a threatening manner, and half my 
brain weighed the chances of fighting my way out, while the other half 
went on speculating what there could be in the parcel. 

"A material," I tried as a last way out, using the technique of "animal, 
vegetable, or mineral" of the radio programs. 

A queer grunt was the reply, and I was asked to open the parcel 
while they all stood round me black as thunderclouds. I untied a string 
of reed fiber and drew out an unbound book full of rongo-rongo signs. 
It was something like the priceless book I had been shown by the village 
skipper. The hieroglyphic ideograms were drawn in ink, ink that had 
faded with age. 


Suddenly it flashed into my mind that in Spanish the word for 
"pen" was the same as for "feather." I slammed the book down on 
the table so hard that I almost put out the light, and drew myself up 

"My a^u-af(u was right!" I said. "He said con pluma, and this indeed 
is written con pluma!" 

All their faces changed immediately. They drew themselves away 
and looked at each other foolishly. It was they who had been wrong. 
Even the savage fellow with the stubbly beard and the flashing eyes had 
changed completely. He had not thought of it in that way. Little Atan 
broke the spell. He was so astonished, he could only stammer: 

"Oh, what a powerful afa-afa you have!' 1 
This kindled a spark of jealousy in my bearded opponent. 

"Look at the at(u-at(u in the book," he said. "Look at it!" 
He turned over large pages like those of a fantastic picture book till 
he came to a place at which he laid it open. The left-hand page was 
covered with mysterious picture writing without explanation. On the 
right twenty picture signs were repeated and translated into the natives' 
own tongue in clumsy lettering. At the bottom of the page a separate 
line was written in faded brown ink. 

"There's the afa-afa," he grunted, pointing to the single line, 
I read: Kofova aro, \ol{ava tua, te igoa o te al(uaf(u, erua. 

" 'When worn out at the front and worn out at the back, make a 
new one,' " the owner said proudly in Spanish. "That's the name of the 
afa-afa in the book." 

It struck me that this was very clever. The original maker of the 
book had added a piece of practical advice, so that his heirs would never 
dare to let the book fall to pieces and the text be lost. He had turned 
his advice into an a\u-a\u, so that no one would fail to respect it. 

"There's the afy-afa" the man repeated, placing his finger on the 
sentence, that we might all admire it. 

"It's a powerful book," I said, and realized that I had chosen the 
right adjective instead of saying "interesting," "pretty," or "well-made." 
It appeared that the man could not read the contents, but regarded the 
book as pure magic. 


Among Gods and Devils 

From this moment on we were all the best of friends: I was called 
brother and received admiring looks from all sides. But still I did not 
feel wholly secure. 

"Now we are brothers," the man said, placing both his hands on my 
shoulders. "Now we will drink each other's blood !" 

Little Atan looked at him with mingled fear and admiration. I hard- 
ened myself in soul and body and tried not to show any feeling. After 
the mental anguish I had endured, no one was going to frighten me 
that night with a scratch from a knife. But the thought of drinking 
that fellow's blood was unendurable. I remembered the mayor and 
Atan once telling Ed and me that they sometimes mixed their ancestors' 
bone meal with water and drank it to get "power." Presumably it was 
something of the kind we were going to do now. 

The grim man marched as stiff as a post into a little back room, and 
I expected him to return with a knife. Instead he came back with a 
bottle and five glasses. He opened the bottle and poured some into 
each glass; the others only got a red splash at the bottom, but I got a 
full glass. Then each of us had to repeat the magic word tafyapu again 
and again. Atan had told me before that this was a word which gave 
mana, so that the a^u-afa could see. Earlier investigators have trans- 
lated this Easter Island word as "ceremonial earth oven," but this is 
wrong. The word has nothing to do with an earth oven unless umu 
precedes it, and then it is umu that means "earth oven." 

When we had repeated the magic word often enough, I sniffed at 
the dirty glass unnoticed. It was red wine he had procured on board 
the Pinto. Before we drank, the leader said in a gruesome voice: 
"Now we will drink our mingled blood." 

The idea that wine was blood he must have acquired from the 
church. We emptied our glasses and he filled them again, an inch for 
himself and the others and a full glass for me. 

"You are our leading brother, drink well," said the bearded fellow in 
good humor, and I was glad that he was not the one to drink freely. 
Now there was big talk of aJ{u-a\us and brotherhood. I was their chief, 
and I had the "key" the "key" to their cave and to "good luck" for 
all five of us. As far as I could understand, Tumu was now responsible 


for the second cave, but even that was mine if I came back and settled 
down among them for good. 

The bottle was soon empty, and I had had the benefit of most 
of it. 

"Look at my beard," said the black-stubbled bandit who had now 
become my younger brother. "That's where my strength lies/' he said 

I was sorry they had not seen me as I looked when I had been on 
the raft for 101 days. But they had now accepted my strength even 
though I was clean-shaven. 

I had never enjoyed a drink so much, or needed it so badly. I felt 
in excellent form and looked at my watch. It was three in the morning. 
It was a long way to the camp, and I must see about getting home. As 
I was picking up the valuable rongo-rongo book and the basket con- 
taining the "key" to the cave, my brothers said that they would come 
and see me at the camp next day, and then we must have a meal of my 
food together. I bade them all welcome, and walked out into the fresh 
cool night with Tumu, Andres, and Atan. 

Next day my new brothers called for me and took me to the top of 
a hill. Here the fanatic clambered up onto a mound and began a speech 
in a hushed voice to an invisible audience out over the sea to right and 
left of him. He held the rongo-rongo book in the reed case under his 
left arm, while he gesticulated heavenward with his right. He spoke in 
Polynesian in a low, almost inaudible voice, but looked like an orator 
mounted on a soapbox at a street corner. He pointed toward the sky 
and toward us, as excited as if he was trying to hold the attention of 
some great invisible crowd gathered on the sea and the plain below us. 
He stood there with open shirt and unbuttoned jacket fluttering in the 
wind, with one foot far away in antiquity and one foot with us 
typifying a people in transition. 

When the speech was over, he presented me with a fine wood carv- 
ing of a sailfish. Then, still in an emotional state, he took out the 
rongo-rongo book and turned the pages vigorously till he came to the 
page where the a{u-a{u was. He delivered another speech in a hushed 
voice to all the invisible people round him, keeping his finger on the 


Among Gods and Devils 

line. And then he asked me to take the book from him and read the 
a{u-afa aloud. 

With the three men standing reverently beside me, and overlooking 
a great part of the strange island below us, I read again : 

Kol^ava aro, \o\ava tua, te igoa o te a\ual(u, erua. 

They listened reverently and with admiration, and then the cere- 
mony was at an end. Their forefathers had been called upon to witness 
that the book was now legally made over to me. We climbed down 
from the hill, down to the green tents, where the steward had laid a 
cold lunch for us. 

The meal which followed recalled the lunch before we went to 
little Atan's cave. But the ceremony was even more grotesque and the 
hoarse voices even more harsh as they whispered compliments about 
the "power" and "strength" of the dishes. And that day each of us 
had his own vahine with him. Yvonne was terrified when I myself 
began to speak in the same unpleasant harsh voice and behave as 
queerly as the rest. She told me afterward that she had been quite sure 
I had gone out of my mind. 

Toward the end of the meal my sinister brother rose and pointed 
to the little Norwegian table flag, while stroking his black-stubbled chin. 
"That is your strength, my brother," he suddenly said to me, and 
seized the flag. "That is your strength, I must have it." 

I gave him the flag and also a little model of the Kon-Tify raft in a 
cellophane case, which he wanted. And carrying these two presents 
triumphantly under his arm, he led his party on horseback in the 
direction of the village. 

That evening I managed to get a few hours' sleep before midnight 
when another cave was to be visited. Enlique Teao, who had been with 
us in Atan's cave, had talked. This time Yvonne, Carl, the photog- 
rapher, and Thor Junior were coming, besides Atan. The cave was 
most skillfully concealed, but easily accessible through a rockfall at 
the foot of a bluff on the west coast. Again I had to eat the tail stump 
of a hen and crawl down a narrow shaft into the underworld. In an 
underground anteroom we were received by two skulls lying on a 
newly raked floor. Inside was a kind of bay decorated rather like a 


Christmas creche, with hay on the floor, and yellow reed mats, ranged 
in the form of a horseshoe round the walls, covered with fantastic stone 
figures. It was really cozy in this inner cave. Enlique was friendly and 
naive, like a child proud of a doll's house, and I felt pleasantly relaxed, 
in contrast to last night's visit with the fanatical brothers. The moon 
shone on us round and smooth when we came up to the surface again, 
its silvery light reflecting on the gentle swell of the dark sea. 

Next day we had arranged a huge barbecue and dancing for the 
village population on the plain at Anakena. Our doctor and the village 
doctor were sitting in the mess tent squeezing drops of blood from the 
ear lobes of those of our guests whom Father Sebastian had pointed 
out as purebred. When the turn of the mayor and his family came, 
they gave their blood as proudly as if the doctors were picking dia- 
monds from their ears. There was no doubt in their minds that a drop 
of blood from a genuine long-ear's ear lobe could be sold for dizzy 
prices to museum owners. When they saw how carefully the little 
red drops were mixed with chemicals and conveyed to the ship's re- 
frigerator in special containers, their expressions showed that they had 
no doubt about it: we were swindling them hopelessly. But what would 
they not do for us in friendship's name? 

The scene was one of life and gaiety; the mayor himself went round 
in a straw hat collecting the chosen in order. We were surrounded by 
songs and laughter, twanging guitars and neighing horses. I had just 
been to the firepit and helped myself to a juicy piece of meat when a 
scraggy old man in a discarded army overcoat halted his horse in front 
of me. He was ragged and toothless and his sunken cheeks were covered 
with gray stubble. He gave me a friendly greeting, and I asked him to 
dismount and help himself from the open earth oven. But he only 
leaned down toward me and muttered in a low voice: 

"This is why I'm here: to say you will have double luck. El brujo, 
the wizard, has told me you will have luck at midnight on Sunday if 
you come to the house. After that good luck will follow you/ 1 

The old man would not reply to my questions; he merely gave a 
jerk to his reins and rode of! into the crowd, and I did not see him 
again. I had never heard of el brujo before: as far as I knew only old 


Among Gods and Devils 

Tahu-tahu was concerned with tahu and witchcraft. But I quickly 
guessed that the wizard must be my strange new brother, Juan Haoa, 
if there was anyone on the island who deserved such a designation. 
He had behaved exactly as if he considered himself a medicine man. 
He lived in the a\u-al{us house, in front of old Tahu-tahu's lonely hut, 
and thought himself surrounded by devils. 

When Sunday came, we went over to the little church as usual. The 
birds flew in and out under the roof and twittered as freely as ever. 
Father Sebastian, as always, stood in the chancel wearing his handsome 
chasuble. But we were no longer surrounded by a mass of native heads 
which blended into an unfamiliar whole. We now knew most of the 
faces. Friends sat on every bench. There sat the "policemen," Nicholas 
and Kasimiro. There sat old Pakomio with Lazarus and young 
Estevan; the village skipper and the "Royal Son" and the four old 
Pakarati brothers. And Atan and Enlique, Alberto and Daniel. And 
together with all the rest, the trio Tumu, Andres, and Juan the Wizard. 
At midnight today, Sunday, I was to see them again, according to the 
old horseman. Time and again I caught myself staring at the trio. There 
they sat, quietly reverent, drinking in every word that Father Sebastian 
spoke. And they sang the Polynesian hymns with the same fervor as 
the others. The devilish look in their eyes had gone, they had a posi- 
tively beatific appearance, and the black stubble no longer made them 
look like bandits, but rather like saints doing penance. 

If I had approached them and asked why they were in Father 
Sebastian's church when they had dealings with a\u-a\u$ and under- 
ground devilry, they would certainly have been surprised and probably 
replied, like little Atan: "We are good Christians. All that is otra cosa 
aparte, 'another thing apart.' " 

Today there was to be a christening in the church. I was to be god- 
father and sat on the first bench on the women's side. Behind me sat 
Analola with her old mother and the whole colorful crowd of vahines. 
Beside me sat the mayor beaming, all dressed up, with his wife, his 
red-haired son, and his old black-clad aunt, Tahu-tahu. This was the 
mayor's great day. He had become a grandfather. His daughter-in-law 
had presented him with a strapping grandson as compensation for the 


little girl who had died of the cocongo. The mayor was overflowing 
with happiness and wanted to call his grandchild after me. When 
Father Sebastian asked beforehand what the child was to be named, the 
mayor replied: 
"Thor Heyerdahi Kon-Tiki El Salvador de Ninos Atan." 

Father Sebastian tugged at his beard in desperation and begged for 
a shorter name. When the child was held over the font, the grandfather 
nudged me delightedly in the ribs. 
"Look at his hair," he said. 

The little boy's skull was covered with stiff, flaming-red hair. 

And the child was christened Salvador Atan. He was the latest scion 
of the long-ears' race. He was the thirteenth generation after Ororoina, 
who escaped alive from the battle at Iko's ditch. 

When night came and the whole village was dark and still, a candle 
was blown out in the mayor's house and two shapes crept out of the 
door unseen. Both the jeep and the horses of the expedition's party had 
returned from the Sunday festivities to Anakena long before. In the 
village and in the camp people had been asleep for some hours, for it 
was nearly midnight. 

But the jeep had returned to the village unseen and was standing 
without lights at the mayor's garden gate. The red-haired father of the 
newly baptized child sat at the wheel and little Uncle Atan was waiting 
at his side. They made room for the two shadows which came out of 
the house. 

Quietly, and without lights, the jeep rolled along the village street 
to the church, then down to the sea and up along the coast toward the 
leper station. 

The two shadows were Ed and I. We had not returned to camp; 
rather we had stayed behind, quite secretly, in the mayor's house to get 
some sleep before another nightly mission. When the village was left 
behind us, and we approached the area of the "wizard's" house, I began 
to feel uneasy as to what might come. A few hundred yards from the 
wizard's house the jeep stopped. Here Ed was to wait with the red- 
haired boy, while I was to walk on with Atan in the dark. 


Among Gods and Devils 

After a while we came up to the wall with the half-rotten ladder 
and again I saw the ghostly house between the great shining banana 
leaves. Atan hesitated. 

"You must go in alone first/' he whispered to me. "You are our lead- 
ing brother. You must knock at the door and say: 4 Wizard Juan, stand 
up for good luck!' " 

I climbed over the creaking ladder and went up to the house. It 
was silent as the grave. I raised my fist and with my knuckles tapped 
cautiously three times on the old door. 
"Wizard Juan, stand up for good luck!" I said in a measured tone. 

No answer. Not a movement within. Only the wind blowing round 
the ghostly house caused a faint rustling of the great glistening banana 
leaves that reached like giant fingers toward the full moon. In the 
distance I heard the faint washing of the sea. 

"Try once more," little Atan whispered from the other side of the 

I knocked again and repeated the phrase. Only the wind replied. 

Now I became suspicious. Perhaps this was another trap. Perhaps 
at this very moment they were putting me to a new test. Atan saw that 
I was hesitating. He whispered that I must try once more: they must 
have gone to sleep inside for good luck. It seemed impossible that all 
three would be sound asleep, just when they were to receive us. I was 
beginning to feel defeated. Were they standing behind the door and 
waiting for my aku-a\u to see them? Incidentally, it was remarkable 
how much rustling there was over there to the left, where the great 
waving leaves caught all the moonlight so that the ground beneath was 
masked in darkness. Had they hidden there in the brush to see if I got 
any help from my a\u-a\u? I thought once or twice, too, that I heard 
a faint sound from within, but no one came. When I had tried six 
times, I gave up and turned to go. Then I distinctly heard a quiet 
movement behind the door. I turned and knocked for the last time. 
"Wizard Juan, stand up for good luck!" 

The door opened slowly. A young woman came out carrying a 
homemade tallow lamp. I looked over her shoulder, but saw no one 
else was there, only the empty wooden benches round the little table 


at which I had received the rongo-rongo book and the "key" to the cave. 

The three men had gone, she told me. She thought they had gone 
to the cave. 

That was it. Presumably they would now wait for my a\u-a\u to 
follow their track so that we could meet at the cave. 

Atan decided to go' into the village to look for Andres. He quickly 
set off across the field to the south. The woman put out her lamp and 
sat down on a wooden bench along the wall. She asked me to join her. 
I had recognized her at once. She was Juan Haoa's wife and the 
mayor's youngest sister. I could not help noticing her lovely profile in 
the moonlight. There was nothing in the least Polynesian about her. 
She reminded me of an Arab or Semitic beauty. It was a classic profile 
with a narrow, slightly curved nose and thin lips. Her skin was pale. 
Yet she was a pure-bred Easter Islander. Actually she was a genuine 
long-ear. We had a sample of her blood on board the ship. 

She was an intelligent woman, and I had no difficulty in carrying 
on a conversation with her. We were left alone for a long time, for 
one o'clock came, and two, and Atan had not returned. I got a good 
deal of information from her as we sat there on the bench, chatting 
in the moonlight. The three men had decided that I ought to have a sort 
of al(u-a\u of feathers, she told me, because we had talked about 
feathers the last time. But to give it power they had been up at old 
Tahu-tahu's, and she had killed a chicken and made a feather crown 
for me to wear on my head. They had placed it on the table a few hours 
ago, when she herself went to bed, but now it was gone. She thought, 
therefore, that they were waiting for me in the cave with the feather 
crown. The whereabouts of the cave she did not know; all she could 
say was that her husband went north when he visited the cave at night. 
She knew a good deal about caves and cave customs, but had never 
seen a cave herself. 

This information about the feather crown could prove very useful 
in the event the three put me to another test, I thought. I could surprise 
them with my own knowledge. 

Another hour passed, and when it was three o'clock little Atan came 
trotting across country, from the village. He had at last found both 


ABOVE: Little Atan was the first to show us a secret family cave. The en- 
trances to these caves were carefully concealed, camouflaged with stones, 
earth, and straw. The caves hid stone sculptures of an unusual style, un- 
like any art form seen on the island before. BELOW: Enlique too had his 
private treasure chamber deep down underground. Yvonne and I inspect 
the curious sculptures which lay piled up along the walls. 

The cave stones 

ts , kidJen in - <^'^ "l^,!'" 

1 was the first outsider to see these curious cave stones, which the owners 
hid from other natives as well. Here are a beast with a human head; a 
bearded face; a mythical whale with a reed hut and a typical Easter Island 
earth oven on its hack and six balls under its belly; a woman with a fish 
roped to her shoulders; and the profile of a head. 

ABOVE: The magic guardian on the right was the most powerful aty-aty 
of the cave belonging to Estcvan's wile. It is a recumbent bust of a devil 
with a humped back, swellings on its head, and a beard. BELOW: Juan 
the Wizard, Tumu, and Andres Haoa, in the wizard's cave. Juan thought 
himself endowed with supernatural qualities, and had appropriated the 



Among Gods and Devils 

Andres and Juan in their sister's house, and Tumu was with them. 
Tumu had demanded that they talk to their sister too about giving me 
the cave, as she had a share along with the brothers. Now she was 
furious because the brothers had asked her after instead of before giving 
me the "key." They tried to mollify her by holding handsome presents 
from me in prospect, but she was still in a rage and threatened to make 
trouble if they gave away the cave. She would not even listen to Atan. 
The three men had been in complete despair, not the least Tumu, who 
was with them to find a solution which would satisfy all three. They 
had begged me to excuse the delay, but I must just wait. 

We waited till four, when I went off to reassure the two who were 
still waiting in the jeep. We decided to give it up, and the jeep had 
already started for the village when we heard the hoofs of a galloping 
horse behind us. It was Juan the Wizard, riding after us at breakneck 
speed. He came from the north and not from the village, and said that 
we must turn and follow him. He seemed overwrought. We turned 
the jeep, and while Juan rode ahead, we followed without lights along 
the coast in the moonlight, nearer and nearer to the leper station. I 
thought soon they would surely hear us up there. Our guide motioned 
to us to stop and get out in the dark shade of some big lava blocks. 

As I crawled out of the jeep, sleepy and cold and stiff, two figures 
rushed out from a hiding place behind the rocks and were upon me in 
a single bound. Before I could do anything they stretched their arms 
up and placed a crown of waving feathers on my head. Juan the Wizard 
leaped from his horse, tethered it to a stone, and swiftly hung a long 
string of feathers bandolier-wise over his chest. He explained that this 
was to show that while I was the chief brother, he came next in rank. 
He asked me to follow him, and we set off across the stony plain as 
fast as we could go, with Ed, Tumu, Andres, and Atan at our heels. 
The red-haired boy remained to watch the jeep. 

Tahu-tahu's waving feather crown was a faithful copy of a hau 
tcfy-tckje, formerly a well-known headdress among the population of 
Easter Island: specimens exist in several museums. I felt rather an 
idiot striding across the stony field with the waving crown on my head; 
it was as though I had returned to childhood and was running about 


playing Indians in the moonlight. Things seemed no less crazy 
when soon after I was squatting down and eating the tail stumps of 
two hens. 

Soon afterward we raised a few stones amid the remains of an old 
crumbling lava flow, and I slipped through the shaft ahead of the 
others with the feather crown still on my head. Down below we entered 
a roomy cave, but it was low under an undulating roof. Again the floor 
was carpeted with old hay. To the right of the entrance was a little altar 
covered with a reed mat, and on it was a large and majestic stone head, 
flanked by two death's-heads. One of the skulls was real, the other was 
of stone and had a curiously sucker-shaped mouth which was twisted 
forward and up, ending as a small bowl or oil lamp into which it stared 
with great hollow eyes. Facing this gruesome trio lay another white 
skull and a slender stone pestle with a head at the upper end. 

In the middle of the floor was a low stone platform, coated with a 
cushion of hay covered by a reed mat. Juan the Wizard asked me to 
sit there and look in a given direction, as his grandfather had always 
done. Round the walls was another platform which supported the most 
extraordinary figures, some patterned from reality and some from a 
world of dreams. In addition there was a yellow reed parcel on each 
side of the platform on which I sat enthroned. 

The first thing Juan the Wizard did was to produce the little model 
raft and the Norwegian table flag. 

"This is your blood," he whispered to me in a hoarse voice, gripping 
the flag tightly. "And there you have new power yourself, there you 
have ipu maengol" he added, pointing to the parcels. 

I was so excited that I held my breath as I removed the wrappings 
and stared at the contents. In each of them lay a brown unglazed 
earthenware jar. These must be two of the three mysterious jars Andres 
had defiantly shown Father Sebastian at the time when he was angry 
with me. 

"He's got many of different kinds in the other cave," Tumu put in. 
"It's full of maengo, and it'll be yours when you come back to us." 

One of the two brown jars had a simple band of incised orna- 
mentation. Juan declared that a "grandfather" had made it, and that 


Among Gods and Devils 

the incisions represented men who had gone to the wars. The jars had 
been placed here so that the dead might drink when they wished to. 

When we unpacked the two jars later in the camp, only Gonzalo 
recognized the type. He had seen jars like them in Chile, where the 
Indians had made them for generations and where they are probably 
still made in remote regions today. These hand-molded jars had not 
been turned out by the potter's wheel; they had been made of coils of 
clay pressed together in the true American Indian manner. How did 
this exceptional type of native jar find its way to Easter Island, either 
in ancient or modern times? And what was there about these jars that 
made them worthy of a place among the figures in the family cave? 
Why did Juan not put water for the spirits into a glass, a can, or a 
coffeepot? Earthenware was unknown in the native huts, and yet he 
must possess more, for we found that neither of the two jars answered 
the description of the three Andres had shown to Father Sebastian. 

Only on one other occasion did I hear of a cave on Easter Island 
with old jars in it. This belonged to a cousin of Enlique's, but he had 
left for Chile in the Pinto. 

Day was breaking and the cocks crowing when I slipped quietly 
through the mayor's garden gate and into his house. Not a soul was 
to be seen, and my bed was as I had left it. Someone had put out fruit 
and a roast chicken, but best of all was being able to relax between 
the fresh white sheets which I had presented to the master of the house 
when he was planning a voyage in the Pinto. 

"Don Pedro, Mayor," I said when my smiling friend tiptoed in with 
a bowl of water later that morning, "thank you for a splendid night's 
hospitality. But when will you show me your cave?" 

"Take it easy, Senor. Surely you weren't out last night without good 

"I had good luck. But I shall be leaving the island very soon. When 
can I see Ororoina's cave?" 

"Take it easy, Senor. You've had the 'key' from me. Isn't it lying 
under your bed?" 

It was. And I could not help smiling inwardly when I thought of 


it, for what I kept under the bed was a long-eared head of a rather 
different type from what I had expected. 

But there had been so much that was unexpected about the mayor 
before I received the "key." Ever since he had come out of the hospital, 
he had been a little queer, and I did not recognize him as quite the 
man I had known. He had grown thin and wan, as was to be expected, 
but above the sunken cheeks a new gleam had entered the cunning 
eyes. He seemed exalted and overoptimistic, full of fantastic plans. He 
was no longer afraid of his grandmother. Now we would empty the 
cave and both of us would become multimillionaires. He was going to 
buy a small steamer and start regular tourist traffic from the mainland. 
His brother, the village skipper, could steer by the stars, and his red- 
haired son, who had learned to drive a jeep, could look after the 
engines. Everyone on the island would become incredibly rich, for the 
tourists he brought would buy more bird-men and moai-\ava-\avas 
than the whole population could produce. 

I had tried to dampen the mayor's colossal optimism, but it had 
been quite useless. For "good luck" I must not talk like that, he said. 
But in spite of all his boasting and big promises the mayor did not 
bring me a single stone after he had recovered. Nor did he come to 
work for me. Suddenly he had no time for anything at all. After all, 
he was mayor, and therefore a fearfully busy man. 

But then one day, quite unexpectedly, he had come rushing to meet 
me outside his garden gate. "Good luck!" he said. 

This was a day of real good luck, he whispered excitedly. And then 
he told me, quite openly and in the captain's presence, that Tahu-tahu 
had agreed to his giving me the "key" of Ororoina's cave on one con- 
dition: that I should take Tahu-tahu's oldest son, as well as the mayor 
and his son, with me when I left the island. I promised to talk to the 
governor about it, and the mayor positively jumped for joy. He eagerly 
invited the captain and me to come into the house at once. At the round 
table where I had so often sat, we found a brutish-looking fellow with 
a flat, broad nose and curly hair. He did not seem particularly amiable, 
even though he tried to smile. Two empty glasses and an opened bottle 
of Chilean peppermint stood on the table. The man who sat there with 


Among Gods and Devils 

bloodshot eyes looked as if he had made certain of the lion's share of 
the contents. But he was not drunk, and he rose and genially stretched 
out a large hand in greeting. 

The mayor assured us unctuously that here was a good fellow; he 
was his own cousin, the son of Tahu-tahu. But his father's family had 
come from the Tuamotu Islands. 

"He has helped us," the mayor assured me. "He has persuaded Tahu- 

Then he had dragged up a bag, held it out in front of him, and 
whispered mysteriously that the "key" stone was a head with three 
small holes in it: these had been filled with a deadly meal made from 
his ancestors' bones. The man with the bloodshot eyes nodded gloomily. 
Now they had carefully removed all the bone meal, and the head was 
no longer dangerous. 

This detail was a feature shared with little Atan's cave. But when 
the mayor took the "key" out of the bag, it was i>o grinning death's- 
head that appeared. On the contrary, it was a jovial pig's head of stone, 
with an amiable snout, round cheeks, and long hanging ears, exactly 
like the most cheerful of the three little pigs in the children's story, the 
one who danced before the wolf and built his house of straw. But 
unlike the nice little pig in the story, this cave pig had curved teeth, 
worse than a wolf's, and three holes for human bone meal on the top 
of his head. 

The mayor and his cousin had turned their gloomy gaze from the 
"key" stone up to us. I tried to look as grave as they were, but the 
mayor must have detected a suppressed gleam in my eye, for he sud- 
denly smiled and gave the pig's head an affectionate kiss on the snout. 
Both the captain and I had been on the verge of collapse. I hastened 
to thank the mayor gravely for the pig's head, the captain took a card- 
board box full of other sculptures, and we made for the door* The 
mayor then asked me to wait in patience for a few days with the pig's 
head under my bed; for several nights running he must bake chickens 
in umu so that all would go well when we entered the cave. 

Days had now become weeks. The mayor seemed never to have 
finished baking his chickens. And the pig's head was by no means safe 


from Anctte under the bed. She was always crawling under it to play 
with Daddy's piggy-wig. The figures from all the other caves had been 
taken on board the ship as the donors had requested, and also because 
we did not like to have them lying in the tent, for scorpions often crept 
out of the holes in the stones. 

"Yes, indeed, I had good luck last night," I repeated, getting out of 
bed to take the washbowl from the mayor's hands. "And the 'key' stone 
is in my tent. But I must take it on board now. We're going at the end 
of this week." 

When the mayor heard this, he had apparently baked enough 
chickens, for he set a night to enter the cave. Bill was permitted to 
come, and the photographer, but he would have no more. 

On the afternoon of the day the mayor had chosen, we had a 
number of native visitors to the camp. The first party to arrive brought 
their traditional wood carvings for sale, and there was lively bartering 
outside the tents. Among the horsemen was a taciturn halfwit who 
came over to my tent with six weather-worn stone figures tied up in a 
cloth. On one of them moss was growing. 

"Who made these?" I asked. 

"I," the boy replied apathetically. 

"You can't have. There's moss growing on this one." 
The boy did not answer, but his mouth fell, and it looked as if he 
was going to weep. Then he told me that his father would give him a 
thrashing if he heard about it. For the boy knew the entrance to his 
grandfather's cave. 

I gave him a lot of presents for himself and his father, and the lad 
rode home overcome with happiness. He probably knew of a cave 
which no one tended, and we never heard another word about the 

The wood carvers remained in the camp till dark, then they all 
rode home in a crowd. They had scarcely left when a solitary horseman 
came down from the hills. He tethered his horse and came to my tent. 
It was Juan the Wizard. He looked grave and troubled, embraced me 
and called me brother; then he gave me an urgent warning. If anyone 


Among Gods and Devils 

came to me with more stones, I must not accept them; it would bring 
me "bad luck." What I had now was all right, but it must go no further. 
I must not accept a single stone from now on. His afa-afa knew 
everything that happened in the village. If I accepted one more stone, 
he would get to know of it, and for our brotherhood's sake I must 
promise to do as he begged me. If I did not, I should regret it, and I 
should never see his other cave with ipu maengo in it. 

He gave me a wonderful sculpture of a reed boat with a figurehead 
and two sails. He had taken it from the second cave, so that I might 
not forget. He was so sincere in his warning, almost imploring, that I 
realized that he had discovered something which he could not disclose. 

As soon as Juan the Wizard had discharged his peculiar mission, he 
went back to his horse and vanished into the night. 

A little later in the evening a young couple came riding along the 
jeep tracks from the village. They were two of the most humble and 
decent natives in the island. The man's name was Moices Secundo 
Tuki, and he was one of my best workers. His wife, Rosa Paoa, was as 
quiet and simple as her husband. I had never talked about caves to 
them, and I was surprised when they silently unloaded a heavy sack 
from one of the horses and asked if they might show me the contents 
privately. When they had emptied the bag, seventeen fantastic stone 
sculptures lay in a row on my bed. A figure of a woman with a large 
fish roped over her back strikingly recalled a typical motif in ceramics 
from old desert graves in Peru. 

Rosa answered all questions freely. Her father, a short-ear of the 
Ngaruti clan, named Simon, had given her the sculptures to barter 
with me. He had inherited them from his great-grandfather, whose 
name she did not know. But the stones came from a closed cave in the 
cliff near Orongo, and the cave was called Mata te Paina or the "Eye 
of the Straw Image/* Another family had hidden their sculptures in the 
same cave, but no one had washed them after Marta Haoa had died. 

I was eager to obtain these unique sculptures. But respect for Juan 
the Wizard and his urgent warning were fresh in my mind and kept 
me on my guard. Who could know if he was hiding in the darkness 
and spying on me? There was some mysterious reason for the hurried 

visit he had paid me. But I did not want to lose these stones. I told the 
couple that my afyi-afa warned me against accepting stones just now. 
But he might change his mind. Therefore they must hide the sack well 
and come to me again the day our ship was to leave the island. 

The couple looked most distressed and puzzled. They remained 
seated, their faces like two question marks. But when I gave them some 
presents as a mark of friendship, they stuffed them gratefully into the 
sack with the stones and crept out of the tent. 

I scratched my head in an endeavor to understand what was going 
on, then blew out the lamp and tried to get some sleep before the ap- 
pointment with the mayor at midnight. It seemed I had little more 
than a nap before the cameraman came and told me that the jeep was 
ready. We were to pick up Bill at a rendezvous in the village, and we 
were giving a lift to the mate Sanne. He was going on another secret 
mission. An old native had confided to me that he knew of a red- 
haired human head in a cave. He himself dared not touch the head, but 
he was willing to point out the place to anyone who was not afraid of 
a swim in the sea at night. And the mate Sanne was not afraid of any- 
thing. The mayor too had once spoken of such a head which was sup- 
posed to be in his cave. Could there be mummified heads in any of 
these caves? We should soon find the answers. 

It was long past midnight when our little party of six sneaked 
quietly up to Tahu-tahu's house. In addition to the mayor, his red- 
haired son, and his cousin, there were Bill, the photographer, and my- 
self. In the scree just below her little hut I smelled the well-known odor 
of chicken in an earth oven, and we were soon squatting in a circle 
devouring the delicacy, I first with the chicken's tail. The ceremony at 
an umu tatypu was beginning to be familiar to me, but never one so 
cheerful as that night. The natives were not nervous, and the mayor 
seemed almost theatrically self-confident as he sat at his ease, tossing 
chicken bones to the a\u-a\us as nonchalantly as if they were dogs 
standing round us begging for morsels. When he had had enough, he 
went a little way to one side and lit a cigarette; then he came up and 
proposed in a friendly way that we should go to the cave. 

This time the entrance was not just a few steps away. We clambered 


Among Gods and Devils 

over walls, stumbled forward over rough stony fields, and followed 
winding tracks. We must have walked for ten minutes, and the place 
where we had eaten was far behind us when at last the mayor stopped 
by a pile of stones. Once we stood and examined it, it was easy to detect 
that the stones in the middle had recently been moved. 

The mayor asked me to produce the "key" stone which I had in 
the bag. I must try to find the entrance with its help, he said. When 
I found it, I must shout three times into the pile that I was a long-ear 
from Norway, open the door! 

I walked straight up to the stones, with the pig's head in front of 
me like a mine detector, and tilted its snout down toward the sus- 
picious-looking stones, repeating the mayor's magic words. A moment 
afterward I had removed a number of stones and was on my way feet 
first down a narrow shaft. 

At the bottom I slowly came out of the shaft and was just about to 
straighten up, cautiously like a blind man, when I felt a sharp bump 
against my neck. It was not the roof I had hit: I had run into some 
moving object. There must be someone in the cave. Before I had time 
to think, I had flung myself aside and around, switching on my flash- 
light as I did so. It was as I thought, there was something moving. 
But what on earth was it? The light fell on a large bird of prey with 
outspread wings and a hooked bill, carrying a human skull on its back. 
It was of stone, and it was swinging from the roof by a string. But the 
bird looked strangely bright and new to have hung there for eleven 
generations since Ororoina's time, and the piece of fiber string which 
supported it was new. 

I turned my light around. The cave was not at all large. Three reed 
mats with parallel rows of round flat stones lay on the earth floor; on 
each stone was carved one magnified figure of the symbols which made 
up the rongo-rongo writing. A small head with a goatee beard lay on 
each mat as guardian. I saw at once that this cave could not have been 
the source of the varied choice sculptures the mayor had brought me. 
The only outstanding objects here were a vessel with sails and a large 
stone bowl over in a corner. Both were well done, but looked as con- 
spicuously fresh as the bird hanging from the roof. 


I looked into the bowl. In it lay eleven small locks of human hair 
of every range of color from red to black. Most of the locks were red, 
and were bound together separately with thin strips of bark with 
elaborate knots. But the locks of hair were not at all dry and dull as on 
mummies: they must have been cut recently from living persons, for 
they were still pliable and glossy. 

The suspicion that had lurked in my mind since seeing the bird 
that swung from the roof was now definitely confirmed. The sculptures 
in this cave were not old. They had been made quite recently, and the 
whole cave was sheer contrivance. We had walked straight into a trap. 
My first thought was to get out. This was what Juan the Wizard had 
meant to warn me against. 

Bill's legs were already feeling their way through the shaft opening 
in the wall of the cave, and it was too late to stop him. Behind him 
came the photographer. It was no use making a row now, for if the 
three natives up there realized that we had seen through the plot, they 
would probably be terrified. And if, for this reason, they panicked and 
filled in the shaft above us with stones, we should be in a nice spot 
here under the solid rock. 

"We've been tricked," I said to Bill as soon as his head was clear of 
the shaft. "Let's get out of this as quickly as we can. It isn't a family 
cave. These are not old stones." 

Bill looked astonished and quite uncomprehending. He crept across 
to the rongo-rongo stones to take a closer look. 

"There's nothing necessarily old here," he whispered back to me. 

"Look at the bird and the boat and the bowl with the hair in it," I 

Bill swung the light round him and agreed. Now I saw the blood- 
shot eyes of the mayor's cousin behind me. He was studying me in- 
tently, but did not understand what we were whispering to each other 
in English. Then I saw the mayor's face in the light too. He was drip- 
ping with sweat from sheer nervousness. His son peered round him 
with large eyes. The shaft must now be clear. 

"The air is bad down here," I said to the mayor, rubbing my fore- 


Among Gods and Devils 

He cordially agreed and wiped away the perspiration. 
"We'll go up and have a bit of a talk/' I said, and made for the shaft. 
"Agreed," said the mayor and headed for the same hole. 

I felt a thrill of relief when I stood under the open sky and saw the 
others climb out of the entrance one by one. 

"We'll go now," I said curtly, picking up the damned pig's head 
which lay on the stone pile looking at me with a crooked smile. 

"Agreed," said the mayor and jumped as if to confirm that this was 
no place to remain. 

And so the little procession went back the way it had come, in 
silence: not a single word was exchanged. I led the way, sleepy and 
tired and cursing inwardly, with the mayor close at my heels. Behind 
him came Bill and the rest. The mayor's cousin lost little time in mak- 
ing off in the dark, and soon after the son had gone too. 

On the outskirts of the village, the photographer and I said good 
night to Bill. It was two o'clock, and he had to get home to the native 
house where he was living. On parting he whispered that if I could 
persuade the mayor to take us to his real cave right away tonight, he 
would not have time to prepare another hoax. 

In the village I asked the photographer to wait with the jeep and 
marched straight up the garden path to the mayor's house with the 
mayor himself close at my heels like a dog. 

I went in and sat down at the round table without a word. The 
mayor immediately sat down beside me and let his eyes wander inno- 
cently round at the walls. I drummed with my fingers. He shifted 
slightly in his chair. I tried to make him look me in the eye. He re- 
turned my gaze for a moment or two with large innocent eyes, then 
he gazed round at the walls again. We could have sat like this for the 
rest of the night. He was unwilling to accept defeat. He clung to the 
hope that the game was not yet lost. 

"That was bad luck, Pedro Atan," I began, and noticed that my 
own voice shook. "Bad luck for you, for me, and for your trip." 

The mayor's chest began to heave. He held his breath. Then he burst 
into tears and let his head fall upon his arms. He lay for a while sob- 
bing violently; then he jumped up and rushed into the little side room, 


where he threw himself on the bed and lay moaning. Then he grew 
quiet and came back into the room where I sat. 

"It was all the fault of my cousin, that bad, bad cousin of mine. I 
thought as you did that we were going to a cave with old figures." 

"But it was you who showed the way your cave," I reminded him. 
He stood for a moment or two collecting his thoughts. Then he 
burst into tears again. 

"It was his idea. I should never have listened to him," he bawled. 
He rushed out the door and into his bed, where he lay for a long time. 
Then he came back again. 

"Seiior, you can ask me for anything. Anything. But not for the gate 
of the cave. Not the gate of the cave. I'd be willing to bring out all the 
stones to you!" 

"You don't have to show us the cave, but then no one will believe 
you. For you're much too clever at making figures." 

I nodded angrily toward the accursed pig's head which lay in a bag 
on the table. It was admirably done, and tired and depressed as I was, 
I could not help smiling inwardly at the thought of the cunning mayor, 
who had made me dance round like an idiot holding the pig's snout 
over the stone pile. 

"If you don't take us straight to the real cave tonight, you'll be mak- 
ing a lot of new stones for another hoax," I said. 
I rose to go. 

"I can take you to another secret cave now, tonight," said the mayor, 
in genuine despair. 

"Is it Ororoina's?" I asked. 

"No, but it's full of old things." 

I took the bag containing the pig's head, the only souvenir of the 
night's adventure, and walked disinterestedly to the door. 

"If you change your mind tonight, you can go and fetch Bill from 
Rapu's hut. I'm returning to Anakena." 

The mayor was standing at his door well-nigh desperate, and curs- 
ing his cousin, as I walked down weary and depressed to join the patient 
photographer in the jeep. 

We had scarcely disappeared along the road when the unhappy 


Among Gods and Devils 

mayor went straight off to Rapu's hut. He woke Bill and offered to 
take him to a genuine cave then and there. Bill was very sleepy and 
utterly sick of the mayor, and when he heard the photographer and I 
had returned to Anakena, he would not go to the cave either. 

The mayor had to go home alone just before dawn. 

About the same time the mate Sanne swam ashore not very far 
from the leper station. The old man had refused to let him use a boat, 
and he had had to swim in the starlight out to a bare lava island. Here, 
following the directions the native had given him, he had found his 
way to a couple of burial caves. In one of them he had actually come 
upon a human head with red hair. A thick tuft of uncommonly fine 
reddish-brown hair had come off on one side, and he had put this in a 
bag and taken it with him when he swam back to the rocks on the 
coast. The hair had no sheen and was bone-dry and brittle. 

This was how the hair in the mayor's bowl ought to have looked 
if he had not gone round, after recovering from his illness, cutting 
locks from the heads of his red- and black-haired relatives. That con- 
founded cocongol It had evidently given the mayor a bad shock and 
restored his faith in his dead grandmother and the afa-afyts, while I 
myself had been degraded to the rank of a quite ordinary person who 
had tried to cheat him. The result was that he had decided to cheat 
me in return, to stop me from pestering him about his own cave. But 
in order not to irritate unknown afa-afas unnecessarily, he had made 
his sham umu far away from all caves and close under the wall of 
Tahu-tahu's house, where he counted on sympathy and protection. 

The following afternoon the mayor's red-haired son Juan came 
riding to the camp alone, looking very grave. Juan was an exceptionally 
handsome and well-built lad; as with the rest of the long-ear Atan 
family, there was nothing in the least Polynesian in his appearance. 
He told me gloomily that he thought his father was going to die. He 
refused to see his wife, he refused to eat or drink. He just lay in bed 
and moaned and wept and talked of "bad luck." Juan had seen by my 
face the night before that there was something wrong with the cave. 
He had never been in a cave of this kind before, so he had thought 
everything was all right. 


When I told him what had happened, not a muscle in his face 
moved, but the tears gushed out and ran down his cheeks. He said 
that his father had gone straight to Senor Bill afterward to show him 
another cave, but Senor Bill would not go without a message from 
Senor Kon-Tiki. But if I would write a message to Senor Bill, the boy 
would try to find out from* his father where the other cave was, and 
so he himself and Senor Bill would bring "good luck" back to the 

I wrote a note to Bill, and the boy galloped back to the village. 

After Bill had received my note, he was shadowed for the rest of 
the day by two men. The natives had begun to shadow Lazarus too, 
so that I never got into his second cave, which was at Vinapu. At mid- 
night Bill managed to elude his shadowers and met Juan at an agreed 
place. With him the boy had a crude map drawn by his father. 

It appeared from the map that they must first go to Ahu Tepeu, 
which lay far away in the stony region on the coast north of the leper 
station. Juan had obtained two saddled horses and a long coil of rope, 
and they set off in the dark. When late at night they reached the great 
ahu, the map had to come out again. They were to go on over a high 
sheep fence, where they had to leave the horses. The next landmark 
was some big lava outcrops to the right. Directly below them, on the 
edge of the coastal cliff, was a firmly set stone which would hold the 
rope secure. They were to climb down almost to the end of the long 
rope, and there they would find the cave. 

They found the fence, the lava outcrops, and a round stone on the 
edge of the plateau; and when the rope was made fast Juan climbed 
down in the dark. They did not eat chicken first and made no umu 
tafypu. There was no kind of ceremony. Juan was down for a long 
time and came up tired out: there was no cave there. They found 
another stone and tried that, with the same negative result. They moved 
the rope from stone to stone along the coast, till at last the boy came 
up completely exhausted. He could just pull himself up over the edge 
with Bill's help. But this time he had found the place. 

Bill set off down the rope in the dark. First he went down a sheer 
drop to a ledge with a decent foothold. But from there the rope dangled 

Among Gods and Devils 

in space. He went on down, and heard breakers far below him in the 
dark. He could see nothing. Then suddenly as he hung in mid-air he 
saw a horizontal crack in the rock just in front of his nose. He thought 
he could make out something inside, but it was too far in for him to 
reach it, and the crack was so narrow that he would not try to get his 
head in. With the help of a flashlight he and Juan, in turn, had at last 
been able to see that the narrow cave was packed with figures buried 
under a thick layer of dust. Juan managed to squeeze his legs into the 
crack and had drawn out with his foot a hook-nosed head with a 
flowing beard, the style of which recalled a medieval ecclesiastical 
sculpture. They were both so weary after their descents that each had 
barely been able to climb the sixty feet up the rope to the top of the cliff. 

Neither could risk another descent. 

Next morning Bill sent me a note. His impression was that this cave 
hit the bull's-eye. So far as he could see, there was every reason to think 
that this time it was the real thing. 

I examined the remarkable head they had brought with them. It 
was certainly different from the fresh sculptures we had been shown 
the night before last. This was old. 

I picked two of our best climbers, the cook and the second engineer. 
In pouring rain, with Juan and Bill leading the way, we rode off in 
broad daylight to the cave at Ahu Tepeu. At last we were at the sheep 
fence, where we dismounted from our wet horses. When we reached 
the spot the rain stopped. We stripped naked to wring out our clothes, 
and I ran to and fro on the edge of the cliff to keep myself warm. 

Suddenly the breeze filled my nostrils with a familiar smell. I would 
have recognized it among a thousands scents. It was umu tafopu, with 
chicken and sweet potatoes. I called Bill's attention to it, but being a 
heavy smoker he noticed nothing. I could see neither smoke nor people, 
but someone had been here and done something mysterious. It was not 
natural for the village people to come out here with chickens and cook 
an ordinary dinner for themselves on the cliff. 

Juan made the rope fast and flung it down the cliffside. I was quite 
horrified when I saw where Bill had been climbing; and Bill himself 
went pale and silent when he saw the place by daylight. There was a 


drop of some three hundred feet down into the sea, and the cave was 
a good sixty feet below the edge of the plateau. 

Bill had no desire to make the descent again, and I was glad that 
we had two skilled climbers with us. I had experienced enough of such 
trips for the present, and I gladly left the pleasure to others since this 
time I did not have my a%u-al(us reputation to defend. The climbers 
had with them a sack and a stick with a net on the end to fish the 
figures out of the rock. And soon the sack began to come up full and 
go down empty. 

Out of the sack came the most incredible sculptures of men, animals, 
and demons. Suddenly I heard a violent outburst from Bill. He held in 
his hand a large stone jar: a tall and gracefully curved water jar with 
a handle. An almost obliterated demon's face and two flying birds in 
the Easter Island style could faintly be seen in relief when we blew 
away the fine dust. 

"This is exactly what I had expected to find," Bill exclaimed. "Not 
real pottery, but something like this in stone, with pottery as its proto- 
type, showing some memory of that art." 

Bill was a quiet man, never prodigal of superlatives. But now he 
was afire with excitement. This cave would have been a quite logical 
place to hide sculptures from Ahu Tcpeu when civil war and devasta- 
tion reached that imposing structure and the great statues on the ahu 
were overthrown. 

Now the sack came up again. There was another stone jar with a 
handle, but this one was much smaller. There were also a phallic figure 
with three incised human heads and a warrior in a long feather cloak 
sitting on the back of a turtle. But the most remarkable figure was a 
whale with grinning jaws full of teeth; its tail terminated in a death's- 
head, and on its back was a model of the boat-shaped Easter Island reed 
house, with a square door in the side and a five-sided kitchen umit 
behind. Six round balls as large as oranges projected under its belly, 
and along its side ran parallel lines which suggested a kind of fabulous 
boat lashed together with bundles of reeds. A short flight of steps, or 
road, ran from the house and down along the side of the whale to what 
might be regarded as the water line of a ship. 


Both before and after its work on Rapa Iti, the expedition had to call 
at Tahiti for provisions and equipment. No one on board regretted it, or 
the hula evenings there. Yvonne, wearing the red skirt, joined the hula 
girls in the singing. 

ABOVE: The song of the South Seas has entranced people of many nations. 
The last verse is being sung, but that verse will never end as long as palms 
wave and the evening air is filled with the sweet scent of the tiarc blossom. 
BLLOW: Heaven or hell? A grunting pig dance in the Taipi Valley of 

Among Gods and Devils 

Juan could give no explanation of any of the strange things that 
came up the cliff; all he knew was that his father had once been shown 
the cave by an old aunt. 

Finally the cook and second engineer came up with the last sackful 
They had taken the sculptures out of a little room inside the crack. 
The larger figures had stood behind the smaller ones. Ail the things 
were covered with a thick layer of fine dust and over some were spider 
webs. There were neither mats nor skeletons in this cave; it contained 
only sculptures, twenty-six in all. 

On the way home from the cave in the cliffside the red-haired young 
man rode up alongside me. There was a question in his eyes. 

"This was excellent/' I said. "And it will be well rewarded. But tell 
your father for me that it was not Ororoina's cave." 

We unloaded all the stones at Rapu's house where Bill was living, 
and as we passed the village church I slipped in to see Father Sebastian. 
He clasped his hands together and marched up and down the floor, 
quite carried away when he heard that the mayor had now shown us 
a genuine cave. He had been truly distressed by the episode of the 
sham cave. Father Sebastian had been kept in bed for a long time with 
the aftermath of a serious attack of cocongo; his case had developed 
before the Pinto sailed away. But even on his sickbed he had followed 
closely all the strange things that were going on. Whenever I stole in 
to see him at the most outlandish hours of the night, he sat up in bed 
in his nightshirt and listened wide-eyed to what I had to tell him. And 
he always had interesting supplementary information to give me. 
Today he told me he had heard from old people that there were several 
caves with "something" in them in those very cliffs on the coast north 
of Ahu Tepeu. 

The events of the last days quickly became known in the village, 
and the strangest things began to happen. The people all went for the 
unfortunate mayor and shouted reoreo liar as soon as he set foot 
outside his door. Everyone tried to exploit the situation to his own 

Some of the worst in abusing the mayor went home to carve stone 
figures in secrecy. Now that the secret cave-stone motifs had been re- 


vcaled by others, they saw no reason to sit and toil at the everlastingly 
repeated wooden figures. When they now tried their hands at stone- 
work, they no longer produced models of the great statues, or nai've 
boulders with a nose and eyes. A distinctive and quite mature style 
had suddenly burst into full flower under the hands of several natives 
at the same time. It was clear that a new industry had been opened up, 
based on an old form of art which had been taboo to the unprivileged. 

Till now no one had tried to sell a cave stone. All deals had taken 
the form of an exchange of presents. But the new stones ranked with 
the wooden figures which were offered for sale. Some rubbed the 
stones thoroughly with earth, others whipped them with rotten banana 
leaves to give them the appearance of having once been wrapped in 
parcels of decayed leaves. Several men came sneaking into the camp 
with these products to try their luck. Perhaps, after all, Senor Kon- 
Tiki's a\u-at(u was not all-knowing, for if it had been, would he have 
let himself be enticed into the mayor's false cave? 

On Easter Island anything may be expected. While some men 
brought new sculptures and said they were old, some tried the opposite 
line in the last days before the boat sailed. They did as the halfwit had 
done: they offered old figures and said they had made them them- 
selves. They hit upon the strangest explanations if we pointed to moss 
and broken surfaces, or found signs of weathering which they them- 
selves had not seen. They declared that their style and motifs were 
taken from photographs in old books on Easter Island, despite the fact 
that no sculpture of the cave-stone type had been seen by any explorer 
or writer before we came. And when I asked if they had seen them in 
Lavachery's book, they fell into the trap and said yes, that that was 
the very book. 

I could not understand what was going on, but it soon became 
clear. Respect for taboos had begun to crumble. Some of the village 
people had become much less afraid of atyt-a\us after all that had hap- 
pened. Senor Kon-Tiki had no all-knowing a\u-a\u, but neither had 
the caves. Superstition had been matched against superstition, and in 
many a village hut it had been extinguished, as a forest blaze would 
be by a counterfire. But although the respect for the afa-afas was 


Among Gods and Devils 

dwindling, there was still something which troubled the native mind: 
the dread of a neighbor's criticism if it became known that a man had 
broken a taboo and taken stones from his family cave. 

Only the mayor was silent and stayed in his house. As we were 
striking camp, I had another visit from his son. He said his father was 
tired of being branded as a liar. He had not lied to me from the time 
of our landing till we went to that unlucky cave. Now he would show 
my friends and me that everything he had told us about Ororoina's 
cave was true. Father Sebastian and the governor could come too and 
see that he had not lied. He would take us all to the cave. For Don 
Pedro Atan was not a poor creature, not a reoreo who went in for 
loose talk. 

The night on which we were to visit Ororoina's cave was set. I 
drove into the village late in the evening with Bill, Ed, Carl, and Arne 
to pick up the governor and Father Sebastian. They accompanied us 
to the mayor's house. He received us at the door with open arms, loud- 
voiced and smiling, and took us into the sitting room. The round table 
was drawn back and the floor was covered with sculptures. The mayor 
had changed his mind at the last moment, and had hurriedly got hold 
of forty sculptures. He explained to Father Sebastian that he could not 
take us into Ororoina's cave after all because there was such an enor- 
mous number of figures in the cave. There were too many for him to 
be able to hand them all over to me; and if he took us to the cave en- 
trance, the secret would no longer exist, and he would have no place 
in which to keep the great collection. 

A fair number of the stones on the floor looked really old, but most 
of them were obviously quite fresh. I at once noticed some figures of 
recent make which had already been offered to us by some other person. 
There were also a few clear attempts to copy sculptures from his own 
little cave in the steep rock at Ahu Tepeu. What on earth was the 
mayor up to now? This was a second and absolutely futile attempt to 
deceive us. 

"What are you playing at?" I asked him. "Why haven't you kept 

your promise to take us to Ororoina's cave, if it is true that you have it?" 

"It is true, Seiior. But when I was in Ororoina's cave last night, I 


saw that there was such a colossal quantity of figures in the cave that 
I could not hand so much over to you/' he repeated. 

"You must have known that before. Didn't you tell me that you 
washed all the stones regularly?" 

"Yes, but all those I found tonight lay farther inside the cave. I 
hadn't seen them before. They were completely covered with dust." 

"But you told me once, didn't you, that you had a kind of account 
book in which you had put down every single sculpture you owned?" 

"Not every single sculpture, Senor. Every single cave! 9 

"You mean that you put down in the book only the number of 
caves you owned?" 

"Yes, certainly, Senor. It's quite a tiny, tiny book," the mayor said 
amiably, holding up a finger and thumb to show its size that of a 
small postage stamp. 

I gave up. 

I was extremely sad as I walked down the steps from the little house, 
followed by the rest of the group. The mayor, quite forlorn, stood alone 
in the doorway with all the stones on the floor behind him. That was 
the last I saw of the mayor, Don Pedro Atan, the strangest personality 
on Easter Island, the last standard-bearer of the long-ears the man 
whose head was so full of secrets that he himself hardly knew where 
fantasy began and truth ended. If the island was once upon a time in- 
habited by a few thousand like him, it was not surprising that giant 
statues on the verge of the unreal crawled out of the quarry and walked 
about to set themselves up on temple platforms. Nor was it strange that 
al(u-al(us had been invented and invisible treasure chambers established 
as bank vaults for a surplus of imagination in the form of queer sculp- 
tures small enough for sinful humans to carry off. 

The following day was our last on Easter Island. 

When orders from the bridge brought the anchor chain rattling up 
from the depths, and the bell to the engine room set wheels and pistons 
humming and beating down in the ship's bowels, there were few cheer- 
ful hearts cither on board or ashore. We had been accepted by the little 
community and had become a part of it. The green tents had seemed 


Among Gods and Devils 

completely at home on the king's site at Anakena. Now the newly 
erected giant stood in solitude, once more betrayed, staring out over a 
sun-filled valley where no one lived any longer. He looked so lonely 
when we struck the last tent that we felt he was asking to be overturned 
again, nose down in the sand, as he had lain for the last few centuries. 

But the giant at Anakena was of stone, while at Hangaroa we left 
a giant of flesh and blood. Father Sebastian, bareheaded and in his white 
robe, towered above the swarm of natives down on the quay. We felt 
that he belonged to the expedition as much as any of us. But he had 
both feet firmly planted on the soil of Easter Island. He did not stand 
alone like the giant at Anakena; he stood as the central figure of the 
living population of the island, a unifying force and an inspiration. 
King Hotu Matua had once so stood among their ancestors when first 
he brought them ashore on this remote island. 

We had to go round and say good-by to every single native. And last 
of all the members of the expedition had, one by one, to take leave of 
Father Sebastian. After Yvonne and little Anette, it was my turn. I 
stood shaking Father Sebastian's hand. We did not say much in the 
way of good-bys. It is easier to find words at a railway station than bid 
farewell forever to a friend on the shore of the world's loneliest island. 

Father Sebastian turned away abruptly and the natives made room 
for him as he tramped off alone to the top of the hill. The red jeep, his 
now, was waiting for him there. As long as its tires held out, the old 
priest would be able to spare his shoe leather on his errands of mercy 
to the sick and suffering which took him as far as the leper station 
among the stony plateaus to the north. 

The governor and his family had got aboard the launch to escort us 
out. I was turning to jump in after the others, when old Pakomio took 
me gently by the arm and led me aside. It was he who had first gone 
out with me to the bird-men's island to show me a secret cave which 
we never found. After that he had become Arne's right-hand man and 
foreman of the diggers in Rano Raraku. When Arne had dug up a tiny 
statuette at the base of one of the giants, Pakomio offered in a whisper 
to show him a cave full of similar figures. But after all the row about 
the caves started, Pakomio was frightened and withdrew his offer. Then 

3 2 5 

he was the first to come running after me, feverishly assuring me that 
there was nothing of the kind nowadays. In their fathers' time such 
caves had existed, but now all entrances were forgotten, and if anyone 
had stone sculptures today they were only copies of those that had been 

With the others silent in the background, Pakomio stood before me 
bareheaded, awkwardly twisting his homemade reed hat. 

"Will you come back to our island, Senor?" he asked quietly. 

"That depends on the stones I have with me. If it's all lies and hum- 
bug, as you say, the stones will bring me bad luck. Then I shall have 
nothing to return for." 

Pakomio looked down. He stood fingering a wreath of white feath- 
ers round his hat. Then he looked up calmly and said in a low voice: 

"Not all the stones you have are lies. They will bring you good luck, 

As the old man spoke, his eyes were large and timid, yet friendly. 
We shook hands for the last time, and then I jumped down into the 

The natives streamed along the coast, on foot and on horseback, to 
wave at the ship till the last moment. I fancied there was a hollow 
drumming under the horses' hoofs on shore, for Easter Island is a 
world in two levels. But all I could really hear now was the surf break- 
ing against the steep cliffs. 





wide beyond seven seas and seven billowing ridges to 
reach the golden castle of your dreams. But who believes in fairy tales 
nowadays? We did, when we breasted the last ridge at Rapa Iti and 
looked at Morongo Uta. 

Round us on all sides lay the sea the endless sea, which we had 
crossed in our little ship from the other side of the globe. Below us lay 
deep green valleys encircling a bay as smooth as glass; we looked right 
down into the funnel of the small vessel which had brought us here 
from Easter Island. On the next summit, straight ahead of us, lay the 
fairy-tale castle, lulled in the slumber of centuries, like the Sleeping 
Beauty. As in a spell, its towers and walls overgrown with brushwood 
and foliage, it lay there just as the king and all his men had left it in 
the days when the world still believed in fairy tales. 

I was tense with excitement as we climbed along the last ridge and 
approached the foot of the castle. It bulked vast and majestic before us, 

3 2 7 

against a background of drifting clouds and purple peaks and spires. 
Although it stood free and heaven-soaring beneath the blue sky, there 
was something earthbound almost subterranean about this ancient 
edifice, which seemed to rise from underground in a vain attempt to 
push its way through turf and vegetation. 

A big blue bird swooped down the cliff with a shrill cry. As we 
drew nearer, three white goats rose out of the greenery on one of the 
walls, leaped down into a moat, and disappeared. 

Considering that Easter Island is the world's loneliest piece of land, 
it is perhaps not so remarkable that this is one of its nearest neighbors, 
and yet the distance between the two is the same as from New York 
to South America. Here among the green hills we felt farther away 
from the madding crowd than ever. This must be the most secluded 
corner of the Pacific. Who ever heard of Rapa Iti? The little island 
had almost been gnawed in two by the vast ocean round it. Too steep 
for a foothold, the ridge we stood on sloped down on both sides to two 
sheltered bays, which in turn reflected the dream castle as the wind 
changed. And if we looked about us, we saw no less than twelve castle- 
like formations, all equally curious, on the other green hilltops round- 
about. But there was no sign of life. Down by the shore of the bay 
where the ship lay anchored, we saw smoke rising from a little village 
of reed-thatched bamboo huts and a handful of whitewashed houses. 
Here lived the entire population of the island, 278 native Polynesians 
all told. 

But who had built this lofty dream castle, and its counterparts on 
all the other hilltops? And what purpose had these buildings really 
served ? No living soul on the island could tell us. 

When Captain Vancouver discovered this remote speck of land in 
1791, he thought he saw people running about on top of one of them; 
he thought he saw, too, a blockhouse and palisades farther down the 
slope, and presumed that it was a man-made fort. But he never went 
ashore to examine it. When the famous South Seas missionary Ellis 
came to the island some years later, he declared that Vancouver had 
been mistaken: the strange contours up in the hills which looked 
like forts were simply natural formations. After Ellis, came the 


A Ruined City in the Clouds 

well-known explorer Moerenhout. He praised Rapa Id's strange 
mountain scenery, with its peaks that resembled towers, castles, and 
fortified Indian villages. But he too failed to go up and have a closer 
look at these extraordinary formations. 

Twenty-five years ago Caillot wrote a little book about this lonely 
island. 1 Both he and others climbed up into the hills and saw here 
and there sections of masonry protruding through the greenery. 
These were thought to be the walls of some strange and long-forgotten 
forts, though others believed them to be the remains of old 
agricultural terraces. Only one ethnologist ever went ashore to study 
the customs of the natives: his name was Stokes, and his unpub- 
lished manuscript has been preserved in the Bishop Museum in 

No archaeologists had ever before set foot on the island. When we 
stood looking out over hill and valley, we knew we were in virgin 
country. We could begin just where we liked. No archaeologist had 
dug here before us; no one knew what we might find. 

There was once a legend current among the natives of Rapa Iti, 
recorded nearly a hundred years ago, describing the original settlement 
of the island. According to this legend Rapa Iti was first settled by 
women who arrived from Easter Island after sailing their primitive 
craft across the sea. Many of them were pregnant, and from them 
sprang the population of this island. 

From the fairy-tale castle up in the mountains we could see for 
many miles across the sea. Far away to the south the sky was black 
and gloomy. Somewhere down there cold ocean currents, moving east. 
skirted the drift ice of the Antarctic. That was a dangerous region 
full of storms and dense fogbanks, empty of islands and human 
life. But to the north the sky stretched bright and blue, flecked with 
little feathery trade-wind clouds drifting west, in company with 
the mild and all-embracing Humboldt Current that laps the countless 
islands on its way, including this lonely outpost of Rapa Iti. It would 
have been quite natural for primitive craft to have drifted this way 

1 Eugene Caillot Hisfoire dc rile Oparo on Rapa (Paris, 1932). 


from Easter Island. That was why we had now followed the very 
same route to Rapa Id. 

Day after day before reaching Rapa Iti we had plowed the rolling 
ocean in a westward race with the current and drifting clouds. Day after 
day we had stood on the bridge, or on deck, or at the rail, gazing into 
the boundless blue. It was remarkable to note how many of us would 
often wander aft and stand staring where the seething wake ran like 
a green highway through the blue expanse, marking the way back to 
Easter Island. It looked as if many would like to be back there. Some, 
perhaps, were dreaming of vahines, others of unsolved mysteries and 
untrodden paths now left behind. Certain it is that very few indeed 
stood in the bow longing for the romantic palm-fringed islands ahead. 

Farthest aft of all stood Rapu, Bill's native friend and foreman of 
his team of excavators at Vinapu. Bill had trained this bright fellow and 
asked if he might bring him along to help with the surveying. Rapu 
had embarked on his journey into the outside world with the smile of 
a movie star. But his heart was tied to the World's Navel, and when it 
sank into the sea astern, his heart sank with it. When there was nothing 
left but sky and sea, no one would have recognized the dashing Rapu. 

He had a flair for the mechanical, and we first gave him a trial as 
handyman down in the engine room. But the ship's noisy underworld 
was not the place for Rapu. He assured the engineers that below deck 
the ship was full of diablos, and the easygoing chief let him spend his 
watches sitting on a chair at the top of the engine-room ladder. But 
the sea breeze sent Rapu to sleep as soon as he sat down, and the engi- 
neers suggested that he was better suited to keeping watch on the 
bridge. He quickly learned to steer the ship by compass, and the mate 
went into the chartroom to attend to his own work. Then the wake 
astern began to assume a peculiar shape, and hopeful souls on deck 
thought the skipper and I had come to our senses and decided to return 
to Easter Island. But Rapu was quite innocent. He had curled up on 
the bench and gone to sleep, while the ship sailed her own course. What 
was the point of steering, when the eternal horizon was just as empty 
whichever way you looked? 


A Ruined City in the Clouds 

Rapu was not particularly superstitious. He was "a child of our 
time/' as the natives on Easter Island put it. But to be on the safe side 
he too pulled his blanket right up over his head when he slept, as was 
the custom among all the natives on his island. Arne had asked them 
the reason, and the answer was that they wanted to avoid seeing all 
the nasty things that were about at night. Not many of Rapu's friends 
would have put up a better show than he, if they had set out into the 
great blue immensity in a ship whose cargo was a thousand cave stones, 
"key" stones, skulls, and bones. The Flying Dutchman was nothing 
compared to us. We were faring across the ocean in a ship laden with 

Pitcairn had risen out of the sea, dead ahead. We had reached the 
island of the Bounty mutineers. The sky behind it was aflame with a 
low, red sun, as though the desperate fugitives were still burning their 
ship behind them. Rapu woke up here. Now he too stood in the bow. 
He counted the coconut palms one, two no, he had never seen so 
many in all Easter Island. Wild goats on the hills, bananas, oranges, 
and all sorts of southern fruit he had never seen. This must be the 
Garden of Eden. Rapu would come here with his wife as soon as he got 
home to Easter Island and could build himself a boat. 

Now we saw red roofs amid all the tropical luxuriance up on the for- 
bidding cliffs. A huge boat with six pairs of oars, gleaming in the light 
as they swung in time, emerged from a little cove set behind a point. 
The descendants of the Bounty mutineers hailed us. The islanders 
climbed on board robust, barelegged, picturesque characters, some of 
them types usually only encountered in historical films from Holly- 
wood. A gray-haired giant clambered aboard ahead of the others: 
Parkin Christian, great-great-grandson of Fletcher Christian, who had 
led the historic mutiny. It was Fletcher who had set Captain Bligh 
adrift in a ship's boat that sailed west nearly as far as Asia, while Chris- 
tian himself tacked against the wind and ran the Bounty ashore off this 
desolate island. Not a soul lived here when the mutineers burned their 
ship in the bay and established themselves with their pretty vahines 
from Tahiti. Yet they found abandoned temple platforms with skulls 
and a few small statues which faintly recalled the giants on Easter 


Island. Who had been there before them ? Nobody knows. And till now 
no archaeologist had been ashore on Pitcairn for more than a few hours. 

Parkin Christian invited me and my family to stay in his own 
house, while the others were distributed among all the other homes. We 
had a splendid reception from a truly hospitable little British commu- 
nity, which spoke English very much as their ancestors had done when 
they landed here in 1790, but with a mixture of Tahitian phrases and a 
local accent, 

We enjoyed a carefree existence on the mutineers' island for several 
days. While the archaeologists wandered round and dug and poked 
about, the sailors visited Christian's cave and Adams' grave, and the 
frogman went down and had a look at the scanty traces of the Bounty. 
The inhabitants helped us to locate the ballast from this famous old 
sailing ship which lay in a crack on the sea floor at the bottom of 
Bounty Bay, a rusty heap of iron bars. 

The inhabitants were constantly finding stone adzes in the soil. 
And there were rock carvings at the foot of a fearsome precipice on the 
north coast. But generally speaking Pitcairn was poor in archaeological 
remains. The mutineers' descendants, as God-fearing Christians, had 
leveled the temple platforms to the ground, smashed the small red 
statues, and thrown them into the sea to rid their island of heathen 
images. Arne and Gonzalo, with the aid of the inhabitants, found a 
cave quarry in a sheer cliff face, where judging by appearances, the red 
statues had been hewn out of the rock. Worn-out stone adzes from the 
quarry still lay where they had been flung among the rock chippings 
on the floor of the cave. 

Strangers rarely set foot on this island. The surf pounds the cliffs at 
the narrow, hazardous landing place. But the shipping route from New 
Zealand to Panama passes close by, and whenever a passenger liner is 
expected the natives row out to sea and sell wood carvings of flying fish 
and turtles, or little models of their ancestors' proud ship. This trade 
has proved so brisk that Pitcairn has run out of miro trees, which they 
need for their vitally important wood carvings. 

In return for their hospitality we took the whole male population of 
the island, and a good many of their womenfolk, aboard our ship and 

A Ruined City in the Clouds 

made for the uninhabited Henderson Island. On its shores our sixty 
passengers felled twenty-five tons of miro wood in a single day. The 
palm-fringed beach looked like the scene of a pirate battle as the color- 
ful throng of Pitcairn people of all ages dashed into the surf with 
crooked branches, and maneuvered the logs out to the boats rearing 
and plunging on the reef. Laden to the gunwales, these were rowed 
off to the ship, to return empty for another load. To anyone not accus- 
tomed to the breakers and backwash, which alternately covered and ex- 
posed the coral reef off the tropical island, disaster seemed repeatedly 
imminent. But men and women on the reef clung to the boat each time 
the breakers foamed over them and lifted them off their feet, and a 
bellowing giant at the tiller shouted orders to twelve toiling oarsmen 
who kept the craft afloat, braced against the onslaughts of the sea. 

Next day, as we unloaded the ship at Pitcairn, a smiling Parkin 
Christian assured us that his people now had enough miro wood to 
carve Bounty models and flying fish for another four years to come. 

From Pitcairn we set a course for Mangareva. We anchored in crys- 
tal-clear water above a wildly colored coral garden set with pearl shells 
and peopled with myriads of queer fish. Rugged mountains girdled the 
pretty lagoon. The only statue we saw in this palm-clad South Seas 
paradise was on a painting in the church, where it lay broken in two 
under the foot of a triumphant missionary. The French administrator 
was away, but his capable wife drummed the natives together for a big 
welcome party, which included a dance in honor of the legendary King 

With a grotesque mask fashioned from a hollow palm stem drawn 
over his head, "King Tupa" danced at the head of his warriors. Accord- 
ing to legend he had come to the island from the east with a whole 
flotilla of large sailing rafts. After a stay of some months he had 
returned to his mighty kingdom to the east, never to reappear in Man- 
gareva. In time and place this legend tallies astonishingly well with the 
Incas' legend of their own great ruler Tupac, who caused an immense 
flotilla of balsa sailing rafts to be built and set out to visit distant in- 
habited islands he had heard of from his own seafaring merchants. 
According to Inca historians, Tupac spent almost a year on his cruise in 


the open Pacific, and returned to Peru with prisoners and booty after 
visiting two inhabited islands. I knew now, thanks to experiments we 
had carried out subsequent to the Kon-Tiki expedition, that such a 
raft cruise was entirely feasible, as we had finally rediscovered the lost 
Inca art of navigating a balsa raft with their guara or centerboard 
method. This enabled a raft to work to windward just as readily as any 
sailing boat. And Inca Tupac may well have been the Tupa remem- 
bered at Mangareva. 

The next land we sighted was Rapa Iti. It lay among the cloudbanks 
to the southwest, like a dreamland sailing on the sea. From far off we 
could see through our binoculars that there was something unusual 
about the highest summits. They looked like overgrown pyramids from 
Mexico, or like stepped Inca fortifications in the wild mountains of 
Peru. This was surely something worth investigating. 

With our hearts in our mouths we stood on the bridge as the skip- 
per, with incredible skill, felt his way through a maze of rents and gaps 
in the live and growing coral reef which barred the entrance to a wide 
bay in the heart of the island. He maneuvered the ship right into a 
smooth lagoon formed by a sunken crater lake encircled by jagged 
peaks and lofty ridges. Little Anette stood looking in fascination at the 
skipper as, at short intervals, he swung the handle of the engine-room 
telegraph back and forth between "stop," "slow ahead/' and "astern," 
and the ship glided imperceptibly forward between the corals. Sud- 
denly Anette rose on tiptoe, took a resolute grip of the handle, and 
pulled it down to "full speed ahead." "Full speed ahead," the engine 
room replied, and we would have run smack into the reef like an ice- 
breaker, had not the skipper hastily swung the telegraph in the opposite 

We breathed a sigh of relief when we rode securely at anchor in the 
unruffled water off the picturesque little village, whose inhabitants came 
paddling out in tiny canoes to stare at us. 

And now at last we had ascended to the topmost crest of the moun- 
tain chain after a climb among steep ravines and ridges. 
"Morongo Uta," muttered a native who had shown us the way. 


A Ruined City in the Clouds 

built it?" I asked. 

He shrugged his shoulders. "Perhaps a king. Who knows?" 

We walked across and began to peer about among the dense vegeta- 
tion. Here and there elaborately built walls projected. I heard a shout 
from Ed, who was investigating a steep terrace where a section of plat- 
form had fallen away, leaving an open earth bank full of shells and fish- 
bones. In the midst of the debris the slender and graceful outlines of a 
bell-shaped mortar appeared; it was made of flint-hard basalt and had 
been turned and polished to complete perfection in a remarkably skillful 
fashion. I had not seen a finer piece of stone work in all Polynesia. 

Bill, too, came up to the crest. 

"This is terrific," he said, and stared in amazement at the gigantic 
structure before us. "We must dig here!" 

We held a meeting on board the ship. We were beginning to run 
short of certain supplies. The large native staff of workers and our 
cave friends on Easter Island had stripped the ship of all our trade 
goods and the bulk of our provisions indeed, most of our requirements 
for the months ahead. The only thing we could do was to weigh anchor, 
proceed to Tahiti, and provision the ship; then we could come straight 
back here and attack the castle on the hill. 

We battled our way through rough weather till the familiar con- 
tours of Tahiti rose out of the sea. My old adoptive father, Chief Teri- 
ieroo, was no more. His house stood empty among the tall palm trunks. 
But Tahiti was full of old friends, and no one had time to be bored, 
day or night, till we laid our course straight back to the waiting island 
down near the fringe of the fog belt. 

As we once more crept cautiously through the dangerous reef of 
Rapa hi, Arne and Gonzalo were no longer on board. We had stopped 
at Raivavae on our way back from Tahiti, and they had been left there 
to explore the overgrown ruins of some taboo temples in which we had 
discovered a number of little stone statues. But there was no extra space 
on board, as we had taken on passengers from Tahiti. One was my old 
friend Henri Jacquier, curator of the museum at Papeete and president 
of the Socittt dcs fctudes Octaniennes. He was joining the expedition 
at my invitation. There was also a native family with us. The authori- 


ties at Tahiti had asked me if I would take them back to Rapa Iti, 
which was their original home. 

Jacquier came on board with one suitcase, but we had to swing out 
the cargo boom for our native passengers. They brought innumerable 
crates, boxes, parcels, sacks, chairs, tables, chests-of-drawers, cupboards, 
two double beds, a quantity of planks and beams, bales of corrugated 
iron, live animals, and huge clusters of bananas, till we could hardly 
move on board. It was a full-scale operation getting all this stuff ashore 
when we reached smooth water at Rapa Iti a week later. As transport 
had been free of charge, the owner valued it accordingly and never even 
bothered to say thank you, and paddled ashore with his family in a 
canoe while the rest of us looked after the unloading. 

On shore we had already met a remarkable couple. The woman, 
called Lea, was a high-spirited, humorous vahine, half-Tahitian and 
half-Corsican. She had been sent to the island as a schoolmistress, to 
teach both grownups and children to read. Her husband, called Money, 
was one huge grin from ear to ear, Tahitian by birth with a dash of 
Chinese in the corners of his eyes. He had been a bus driver in Tahiti; 
now in roadless Rapa Iti he lounged about doing nothing. 

As Lea could both speak and write French, she was the old chiefs 
right hand. If any problem arose, Lea's advice was sought, and she set- 
tled the case with great dispatch. She was the life and soul of the little 
community. Firmly planted on her feet, arms akimbo, and with bris- 
tling plaits, she reported for duty when I came ashore. Money stood 
modestly behind her, well-fed and happy, wreathed in smiles. 

I asked Lea if she could get me twenty strong men to dig in the 

"When do you want them?" she asked. 

"At seven tomorrow morning," I said, expecting that at best a dozen 
fellows would come wandering in during the next week. 

When I came out on deck next morning to stretch myself and watch 
the sunrise, I caught sight of Lea standing on the shore with twenty 
men drawn up beside her. I swallowed a glass of fruit juice, crammed 
a slice of bread in my mouth, and hurried ashore in the launch. We 
agreed on Tahiti wages and working hours, and by the time the sun 


ABOVE: Rapa Iti's green hills were covered with overgrown terraces and 
mysterious pyramids which could not have been the work of nature. 
BULOW: All the men of the village going up the hill to take part in the first 
real excavation ever done on this amazingly unexplored island. Of the 
twelve artificial hilltops we chose Morongo Uta. 

On beautiful Rapa Iti women left their huts to replace their striking 
men in the hills. BKLOW: Led by Leu, the Joan of Arc of the South Seas, 
cheering vahines marched uphill to take over the men's work. Lea, half- 
Tahitian and half-Corsican, had come to the island to teach the natives 

ABOVE: The women worked better than the men. They wanted to get 
clothes and food for themselves and their children from our ship. BELOW: 
The strike was called off, for the men wanted to serve too. Men and 
women were given separate hilltops and competed with one another at the 
most fantastic working tempo the archaeologists had ever seen. 

ABOVE: The work of ancient man. Ruins of walls, terraces, and tower ap- 
peared as bushes and foliage vanished. Every single stone had been carried 
up from the deep valley. BELOW: The daily bread on Rapa hi is popoi 
made from taro which grows on irrigated terraces in the valleys. The tan 
u~:t A \, n .A*A him<r nn in bw* and ratrn a* fermented doujjh. 

On Rapa Iti the women work and the men sleep. Here two vahines pack 
up taro roots in bundles of grass to take to the village. The men resorted 
to fishing every Saturday when they were tired of eating popoi. 

Morongo Uta lay like a fairy castle in the wild hills of Rapa hi. Sites o 
houses and tools appeared in masses when we began to dig. t was ound 
that the original populate had once lived in twelve fortified hill villages 

on the highest peaks, and had only gone clown into the valley to mind the 
taro fields and catch fish. Another hill village, unexcavated and green-clad, 
is seen in the background to the kit. 

Work is over. The first fortified mountain village in Polynesia has been 
excavated. Bill (AT RIGHT), who directed the excavation of Morongo Uta, 
Yvonne, and I plant the expedition's flag on the ruins of the largest build- 
ing ever discovered in the whole of Polynesia. 

A Ruined City in the Clouds 

was at the zenith we were high up in the hills with Money and twenty 
strong fellows cutting ledges and steps in the steep hillside so that we 
could reach Morongo Uta without daily peril to life and limb. 

Money led the way, giggling and laughing, and infecting the whole 
team with his high spirits. They sang and shouted and worked with a 
will, for this was something new: they were not accustomed to work 
on this island. Whom else should they work for ? Certainly not for their 
own families. It was the women who cultivated the tare in the fields, 
it was the women who brought the tare home and kneaded it to a fer- 
mented dough which they ate for a whole week. And once a week 
when they grew tired of this popoi porridge, they went out fishing in 
the lagoon, and with raw fish and popoi on the bill of fare they could 
retire into the shade and sleep and make love for another week. Once 
a year a native trading schooner from Tahiti called. Then some of the 
men spent a few days in the woods gathering wild coffee berries which 
had already fallen to the ground, and which they bartered for minor 
commodities on board the schooner. 

In our cheerful working team there was only one man, always the 
last one in line, who shirked as much as he could and encouraged the 
others to go slow. When Money protested, the shirker inquired in sur- 
prise what he was worrying about, as Money was not paying for the 
work. The man at the rear was the returned traveler from Tahiti, 
whom we ourselves had brought free of charge, complete with family 
and luggage. 

Up on the sharp ridge which formed the watershed there was a 
saddle-shaped depression ; the brushwood had crept up into it from the 
other side and obtained a foothold. Here we cleared a camp ground on 
a ledge just wide enough for a two-man tent. It was so narrow that Bill 
literally could sit in his tent and spit orange pips down the steep slopes 
on either side of the island. He was to have his base here. Bill had been 
given the task of directing the excavation of Morongo Uta. 

When we were ready to go up into the hills next day, not a single one 
of our merry workers had shown up. Money was standing gloomily on 
the shore struggling with the corners of his mouth, which otherwise 
would have curled up in his customary smile, and Lea, looking like a 


thundercloud, came rushing out of a large bamboo hut in the village. 

"If only Fd had a machine gun!" Lea cried in a rage, swinging round 
and aiming at the bamboo hut with outstretched arm and one finger 
crooked under her eye. 

"What's happened?" I asked in alarm, thanking heaven that the 
enraged woman was unarmed. 

"They're holding a council of war in there," Lea explained. "That 
fellow you brought from Tahiti says it's unfair to the others simply to 
pick out twenty men to work. They now want to decide themselves 
how many are to work. Anyone who wants to, shall be allowed to; they 
say they won't stand for any dictatorship. And if you don't let them de- 
cide who is to work, they'll stop your going up into the hills again. 
They'll drive you away from the island. There are fifty of them who 
want to work." 

Lea was really furious. The natives, she added, had solemnly invited 
us to a meeting in the big hut after sunset. For the time being we must 
return to the ship. 

By six o'clock the sun had set, and we were engulfed in darkness 
intensified by the stupendous cliffs which rose just behind the village 
and walled in the old crater-lake bay. The skipper put Jacquier and 
myself ashore alone, and we walked up to the dark village by the light 
of our flashlights. Three natives stepped out of the night without a 
word of greeting and followed us noiselessly on their bare feet. 

Not a soul was to be seen in the village. The only sign of life was 
an occasional heap of embers glimpsed through the doorway of an oval, 
thatched bamboo hut. But the glare of a kerosene lamp led us toward 
the assembly hut, where we stooped under the straw roof and walked 
in, onto soft mats of plaited pandanus leaves. On the floor round three 
of the walls squatted thirty native men as grim as warriors before a 
battle. In the middle of the floor, in solitary splendor, sat a large fat 
woman with a map spread out between her bare legs. 

We greeted the gathering with a cheerful ia-o-rana as we straight- 
ened up inside the door, and received a murmured reply from all those 
sitting there. Lea and the native pastor were standing by the fourth 
wall. Lea stood with folded arms, dark and menacing, but flashed a 


A Ruined City in the Clouds 

smile of welcome as we entered. Money was not there. Lea pointed to 
four empty chairs which had been placed for her, the pastor, Jacquier, 
and myself. 

She asked Jacquier to speak first, as officially representing the French 
Colonial Ministry. He rose and read a speech in French, very slowly 
and very quietly. One or two of the natives seemed to understand, for 
they nodded and looked pleased. All the others watched inquiringly, 
with their eyes fixed steadily on us, for they obviously did not under- 
stand a word. 

Jacquier told them that he was head of the Societe des Etudes 
Oceaniennes, at which the large matron in the middle of the floor 
nodded, visibly impressed, and pointed to the map. He went on to say 
that he had been sent by the Governor of French Oceania for the sole 
purpose of helping us. He had left his family and museum in Tahiti 
for that very reason. And I pointing to me was no tourist. I was the 
man who had traveled to Raroia with my friends on a pae-pae. And 
now I had come here with some learned men just to study their ancient 
buildings. People from many countries had come to work peaceably 
with the inhabitants of Rapa Iti from Norway, America, Chile, Easter 
Island, and France. We had come to learn about their forefathers. We 
had just visited Rapa Nui Easter Island. Might we receive as good 
treatment on Rapa Iti "Little Rapa" as we had in Rapa Nui "Great 

Lea translated the speech into the Tahitian dialect, adding a good 
deal that came from her own heart. She spoke softly, almost daintily, 
but with emphasis and a note of admonition. Her hearers squatted mo- 
tionless, hanging on every word, and every one of them seemed to be 
making an honest attempt to weigh her arguments. 

The alert types on the pandanus mats round the low bamboo walls 
in fact the whole occasion gave me an intense feeling of reliving events 
that were commonplace in the South Seas during the days of Captain 
Cook and the other early explorers. Here on Rapa Iti generations had 
gone by like months. The gleaming eyes of the men round the walls 
reflected so vividly the alertness of uninhibited children of nature that 
for a moment I forgot that they were wearing ragged shirts and trou- 


sers; they might have sat there in the loincloths of their ancestors. I saw 
only rows of attentive eyes, intelligent eyes, without a trace of the de- 
generation of the half-civilized, but with a primitive gleam I had seen till 
now only in isolated jungle tribes. 

When Lea had finished the old chief rose. He talked to his men 
almost in a whisper, but we 'could see from his expression that he took 
a favorable view. After him another old native jumped up. He spoke 
for a long time in the Rapa Id dialect, eloquently and emphatically : he 
seemed to be the local public orator. 

Finally I too rose, with Lea as interpreter, and said that their an- 
cestors might have had good reason to offer resistance and defend their 
hilltop forts when strange vessels approached. But times had changed. 
We had come to climb the hills in their company, and remove the earth 
and brush, so that the forts would be as fine as in the days of their fore- 
fathers. I was ready to yield to their demand and give work to all who 
wanted it, but only on condition that I could send down again any man 
who did not work well enough to deserve his daily wage. 

They all sprang up and rushed toward us, and we had to shake 
hands with each one in turn. Next day Lea appeared with fifty-six men, 
while Money stood beside her smiling proudly. This was the entire 
adult male population of the island, except for two old men who could 
not climb the hills. Money and I led the army up into the mountains. 
And Bill nearly fell over backward into the other valley as he sat in 
front of his tent up on the saddle of the narrow ridge and saw the 
seemingly endless procession that came climbing round a corner of the 
cliff just below him, yelling and shouting and swinging axes and long 

Like a great battle, the work began up on the walls of Morongo Uta 
and went on as easy as child's play. Hibiscus and pandanus and giant 
tree ferns were powerless to withstand the assault; heavy tree trunks 
crashed down from the walls and went thundering into the depths, 
followed by leaves and ferns and brush. 

When evening approached, the besieging army retired without a 
single casualty. They cheered and danced like boys as they scrambled 
down the hill. They had hardly taken a breather, apart from their mid- 


A Ruined City in the Clouds 

day rest when they had opened the bundles of large green leaves they 
had brought with them. Inside lay the grayish-white dough called 
popoi, which they ate with two fingers. Money descended the slope and 
came up twice as fat as usual, having stuffed his shirt full of big wild 
oranges, which he distributed to all who wanted them. 

While the rest of us went down to the village or the ship, the second 
officer stayed up in the tent with Bill. We were to keep contact every 
evening by walkie-talkie. But long before contact time we saw light 
signals flash out from the mountain fort in the dark night. The second 
mate was sending an SOS: the camp was being attacked by a million 

"The second mate always exaggerates/' the skipper reassured us. "If 
he says there are a million, you can bet your boots there are not more 
than a thousand." 

Next morning our army paraded afresh, and picks, spades, netting 
screens, and all kinds of excavating gear were carried up the hill. The 
two rats which had visited the camp had gorged themselves on popoi 
and returned to their own orange trees. 

For a few days the work went splendidly. But then one morning, 
all of a sudden, not one of our fifty-six natives turned up. Through the 
field glasses we could see the figures of Bill and Larsen silhouetted on 
the hilltop, while Lea stood on the shore waving to us. More trouble. 
I went ashore in the motor launch. 

"They're on strike," said Lea as I landed. 

"Why?" I asked in astonishment. 

"That man you brought back from Tahiti has told them that every- 
one who works must strike." 

Flabbergasted at the news, I went up to the village where some of 
the toughest fellows were standing with their hands in their trouser 
pockets, looking truculent and surly. The rest had withdrawn into the 
huts. All I could see were a few eyes peeping through chinks in the 

"Why are you on strike?" I asked, addressing one of the men directly. 

"I'm not the one that knows," the man replied, looking round for 
support. But he got none. And as I went from man to man, none of 

them could answer my question. They just stood there looking dis- 
contented and grumpy. 

"There's a man who knows," a fat woman called from one of the 
doors. "But he's not here." 

I told them to go and fetch him, and several of the men rushed off. 
They came back escorting a half-reluctant fellow, with a brutish- 
looking face, wearing an old green army overcoat with no buttons, 
barefooted like the others, and with one of our cigarettes drooping from 
his lips. It was our friend the free passenger. 

"Why are you on strike?" I asked again as he stood before me with 
an arrogant air. Everyone came out of their huts, men and women, 
and crowded gloomily round us. 

"We want more wages for food," he answered, with the cigarette 
sticking up at the corner of his mouth and his hands in his coat pockets. 
"But aren't you getting the wages you asked for yourselves, the same 
daily wage that is paid in Tahiti?" 

"We want more because we provide our own food and lodging." 
I saw behind him the green leaf-bags of popoi hanging in the trees 
among the bamboo huts. I knew something about daily wages in 
French Oceania, and that what he was asking was absurd. If I gave way 
now, there would be a fresh strike and fresh demands the day after 

So I said plainly that I meant to stick to the agreement made on 
the evening I accepted their previous demand. Their reply was that 
they were all laying down their tools. 

An excited vahine of imposing dimensions was standing beside me, 
with muscles that might have frightened any man. There were others 
of the same build nearby, and I had a sudden inspiration. I turned to 
the vahines: 

"Are you women going to let the men lie and sleep in the huts, when 
for once there's paid work to be had on Rapa Iti? When a ship full of 
food and clothes and other goods is lying out in the lagoon?" 

It was a bull's-eye. The stout matron beside me spotted her own hus- 
band in the crowd, and at the mere sight of her pointing finger the man 
slunk off. A deafening clamor arose among the vahines. Suddenly Lea 


A Ruined City in the Clouds 

stepped out in front of the throng of gaping men, like a regular Joan of 
Arc. And with her hands planted resolutely on her hips, she called 
out to me: 
"Why do you want men to work for you? Why can't you use us?" 

This caused a landslide. I looked at all the robust girls gazing at me 
eagerly and closed the bargain. After all, it was they who were accus- 
tomed to doing the work on this island. 

Before I knew what was going on, Lea was rushing from hut to hut. 
She pointed to Morongo Uta and shouted her orders. The women 
came pouring out. Vahines with infants in arms handed them over to 
daughters and grandmothers. Others washing in the brook flung down 
their soapy clothes, and the taro fields were left to themselves till the 
men should grow hungry. And then Lea, erect as a soldier, marched off 
uphill at the head of her regiment of vahines. Napoleon would have 
been proud of his Corsican blood if he had seen her striding in front 
singing the "Marseillaise/' which in the rearward files became more 
and more blurred, gradually blending with local tunes, till those who 
came last were singing hula melodies, waggling their hips seductively 
as they danced along. Money and I were the only representatives of the 
strong sex in the procession, and if Money had been smiling before, he 
was splitting with laughter now. 

Bill and the second mate, up on the ridge, came crawling out of the 
tent when they heard all the noise, and again I thought Bill would 
tumble down into the valley on the other side when he saw what was 
"Here are the diggers," I shouted. "Bring out the spades." 

When Bill had pulled himself together, he seized a pick and handed 
it to one of the prettiest girls. She was so delighted that she flung her- 
self on his neck and gave him a smacking kiss. Bill managed to save his 
spectacles and his hat and sank down slowly onto a packing case, 
wiping his cheek and looking up at me with a bewildered expression. 
"In all my career as an archaeologist," he said, "I've missed this. I 
never knew archaeology could produce so many surprises. What'll you 
come marching up with next?" 

Lea and her women's corps did credit to their sex. Neither in the 


United States nor in Norway had we seen such a working tempo. 
Masses of turf and soil were heaved down the cliff side so fast that Bill 
was run off his feet seeing that everything was done according to his 
orders. The vahines were intelligent and quick learners, and with Lea 
as their leader they formed a first-class clearing team. They were as 
meticulous in working on details with the trowel as they were energetic 
when their task merely involved getting rid of roots and surplus earth 
with pick and shovel. Gradually the towers and walls of Morongo Uta 
began to gleam rust-red and steel-gray in the sunlight. When the va- 
hines had finished for the day, Bill withdrew to his tent, completely ex- 
hausted. Nor was there the slightest falling-off in the vahines' tempo in 
the days that followed. 

The men were left sitting in the village eating popoi. When payday 
came, and the vahines kept both money and goods for themselves and 
all their children, the men began to throw down their popoi bags and ap- 
proach the man from Tahiti with scowling faces. No one had reckoned 
with this consequence. 

All this time the chief and the native pastor had stood by us loyally 
but helplessly, together with the smiling Money. Now they came with 
all the men to sue for peace. Everyone was willing to resume work for 
the original Tahiti wages. We set men and vahines to work on two 
separate wings of the huge structure. This proved a challenge to the 
sexes, creating competition, and speed and efficiency now became a 
matter of prestige. Never was a ruin excavated by a more energetic 
team of diggers. From the ship down in the bay it looked as if a swarm 
of locusts had descended on the peak and was eating its way downhill. 
The vegetation covering Morongo Uta gradually receded and disap- 
peared, and every day the expanse of reddish-brown rock increased. 
Terraces and walls stood out, and soon the stepped summit was 
stripped and shone like a chocolate temple against the blue sky. 

On the other peaks surrounding us the pyramids still lay like the 
moss-grown palaces of mountain trolls. But Morongo Uta was not a 
palace. It was not a castle. Anyone who came up into the hills now 
could see that it was not a single building. It was the deserted ruins of a 
whole village. It was as wrong to call it a fort, as it had been wrong to 


A Ruined City in the Clouds 

think of it as agricultural terraces. For up there on the topmost heights 
the whole population of the island had once upon a time had its perma- 
nent dwellings. 

There was plenty of level ground on the floor of the valleys for 
those who had first found their way to this island. But instead of set- 
tling there, they had climbed up the most inaccessible precipices and 
established themselves round the topmost peaks. There they had clung 
fast and built their airy eagles' nests. They had attacked the very rock 
with stone tools and turned the hilltop into an impregnable tower. 
Round and below it the whole cliff had been carved out in great ter- 
races, on which the village houses had stood in rows. The ancient fire- 
places were still there, full of charcoal and ashes. They were curious 
built-up stone ovens of a type hitherto known only in Easter Island 
and not found anywhere else in Polynesia. Bill carefully collected the 
precious scraps of charcoal in his bags. From them, with the help of 
carbon-i4 testing, it would be possible to determine the date of this 
strange hill village. 

Stone adzes of different kinds, whole and broken, were lying about 
in great quantities. And equally common was the indispensable stone 
pounder used by the women of the past for beating taro into popoi. 
Some of these popoi pounders were so perfectly formed and balanced, 
with their slender lines, graceful curves, and high polish, that our engi- 
neer refused to believe that such work was possible without a modern 
lathe. Even the charred remains of an old fishing net were carefully 
dug up out of the earth by Bill's trowel. 

Once this must have been a well-fortified village. A huge moat with 
a rampart on the raised village side barred the way to anyone coming 
along the southern ridge. Hundreds of thousands of hard basalt stones 
had been painfully carried up from the bottom of the valley to support 
the terraces on which the huts rested, so that they should not plunge 
down into the abyss under Rapa Iti's violent rainstorms. The uncut 
blocks were fitted together in masterly fashion without mortar; here 
and there a drainage channel ran out through the wall, or long stones 
projected and formed a kind of stair from one terrace to the next. There 
were more than eighty terraces in the Morongo Uta village, and the 


whole complex was 160 feet high with a span of 1,300 feet. It was thus 
the largest continuous structure ever discovered in the whole of Poly- 
nesia. According to Bill's calculations Morongo Uta alone must have 
had more inhabitants than the population of the entire island today, 
which totals 278. 

Square stone ovens, wells, and storage pits for taro were all that was 
left of the houses, apart from debris and tools. The local type of dwell- 
ing had been an oval hut made of pliant boughs stuck into the ground, 
bent and bound together on top, and covered with reeds and dried 
grass, like a haycock. This too was suspiciously reminiscent of Easter 
Island. These hilltop dwellers had found no room in their mountain 
village for the huge temples which dominate the ancient architecture 
of all the other islands. The population of Morongo Uta had solved this 
problem in a manner so far unknown in the whole Pacific: they had 
cut small dome-shaped niches in the rock behind the terraces, and there 
they had built themselves miniature temples, on whose flat floors rows 
and squares of small stone prisms stood on edge like chessmen. Such 
ceremonies as could not be performed in front of these pocket-size tem- 
ples could be carried out on the topmost platform of the pyramid, under 
the open vault of heaven, in company with sun and moon. 

While Bill and his assistants were supervising the excavation of 
Morongo Uta, Ed and Carl went about with the ship's crew exploring 
the rest of the island. All the other peculiar hilltops were ruins of forti- 
fied villages of the same type as Morongo Uta. The natives called them 
pare. Old house sites lay as close together as space allowed along the 
narrow edge of the lofty watershed which ran from peak to peak. Deep 
down in the mountain-girt valleys were the walls of old agricultural 
terraces. They often continued far up the sides of the valkys like flights 
of steps, and everywhere could be found the relics of artificial irrigation, 
with conduits which branched off from streams and conveyed water to 
hillside terraces which otherwise would have remained dry. 

Although the strange community of ancient Rapa Iti had dwelt up 
on the highest peaks, the villagers had gone down daily along paths 
cut into the precipitous slopes to cultivate taro in the valleys and to 
catch fish and other seafood in the bays. Few eaglets can have nested in 


A Ruined City in the Clouds 

a more exposed eyrie than the children of these Pacific hillmen up on 
their lofty ledges. What had frightened these people and made them 
take to the heights? Had those who settled on one summit taken to the 
hills for fear of those who lived on the others? Hardly. The villages 
were all connected by house sites strung out along the ridges, forming 
a continuous defense system that faced the endless sea. Had they fled 
to the heights for fear that their island was sinking into the sea ? Hard- 
ly. From the hilltops we could see that the coastline way below us was 
the same as in their time, for where the sea was shallow for some way 
out, the stones had been cleared away for landing places, fishtraps, and 
fishponds which could all still be used today. 

The answer was plain enough. The people of Rapa Iti were afraid of 
a powerful outside enemy, an enemy who was known to them, and 
whose war canoes might appear above the horizon without warning. 

Perhaps they had themselves been driven to this out-of-the-way spot 
from another island which this enemy had already taken. Could this 
island have been Easter Island? Could the legend of Rapa Iti have 
sprung from a grain of truth, like the story of the battle at Iko's ditch? 
The cannibal battles in the third epoch of Easter Island would be 
enough to frighten anyone out to sea, even expectant mothers. As re- 
cently as the last century a wooden raft with a crew of seven natives 
landed safely on Rapa Iti, after drifting from Mangareva, which we 
ourselves had visited on our way here from Easter Island. 

There were no statues on Rapa Iti, but there was no room for them 
on the hilltops. And if Easter Island women and children had been the 
founders of the island's culture, they would have thought of houses, 
food, and security rather than flaunting monuments and aggressive 
campaigns: they would have built themselves curved reed houses and 
rectilinear stone ovens as on Easter Island, instead of rectilinear houses 
and round earth ovens as on all the islands in the neighborhood. They 
would have put secure defenses for their own homes before warlike 
expeditions to those of others. And if they came from Easter Island, 
it is less surprising that they had the enterprise to reshape entire moun- 
tain peaks with their small stone tools. Curiously enough it is the 
women of Rapa Iti who keep the community going even to the present 


day, while the men are coddled and cared for almost like overgrown 

It had hitherto been maintained that in Rapa Iti there were neither 
dressed stone blocks nor human figures carved in stone. Up in the hills 
we found both. The natives took us to a bluff high above the valley east 
of Morongo Uta. Here they showed us a remarkable rock chamber 
where, according to legend, the bodies of kings had lain before their 
mortal remains were taken off on their last journey. It was an outstand- 
ing example of the stonemason's art. A repository shaped like a large 
sarcophagus had been cut in profile into the face of the bluff, and the 
open side carefully sealed up by four square blocks of stone fitted 
together so neatly that it looked as if they were of organic matter and 
had grown naturally together in the course of time. In the cliff beside 
it a human figure, as large as a child, had been cut in high relief. It stood 
with raised arms, ominous and menacing, reminding me of the "king" 
in Lazarus' burial cave on Easter Island, 

According to tradition, when they died, the kings of Rapa Iti were 
carried up to this burial chamber in broad daylight, with pomp and 
splendor. Here the king lay, with his head pointing east, until one dark 
night he was taken away by two of his henchmen, who carried him 
stealthily over the ridge to the Anarua Valley on the other side. There, 
from generation to generation, all the past rulers of Rapa Iti were care- 
fully hidden in a secret cave. 

We found burial caves on Rapa Iti in other valleys. The largest was 
in the Anapori Valley, behind a waterfall which fell straight down 
from the rock thirty feet above. A little stream trickled into the cave, 
and we had to wade knee-deep in a clayey mass inside the rock till we 
came to dry ground with burial cairns on the shore of a subterranean 
lake. The shore beyond could only be reached by swimming seventy- 
five yards through ice-cold water. Yet here too, in pitch-darkness, lay 
remains of human skeletons. 

In the cliff below Morongo Uta we found a burial cave of more 
recent times. It was hewn into the friable rock, and the entrance was 
sealed with a stone slab. Three bodies had been laid in the cave, but we 
quickly replaced the slab when a native climbed up to tell us that the 


A Ruined City in the Clouds 

contents were his closest kin. There were several sealed chambers of the 
same sort close by, apparently in recent use, and as we did not touch 
them, the man confided that his own grandfather too reposed in a secret 
cave in the cliff near where we stood, behind a similar slab. Beside him 
in the man-made cave lay a great many other people who had been 
placed there one after the other during a period of generations. To this 
very day the inhabitants of Rapa Iti adhere as best they can to their old 
custom : although they now bury their dead in consecrated ground near 
the village, they immure them in lateral chambers dug in the earth wall 
at the bottom of the grave. 

The man-wrought peaks of Rapa Iti rise out of the sea like some 
elaborate monument to nameless navigators of a forgotten age navi- 
gators who had many hundreds of miles behind them when they landed 
on this lonely spot. But many hundreds of miles were not enough to 
remove their fear that other seafarers might follow in their wake. The 
ocean is vast, but even the tiniest craft that will stay afloat can get across, 
given time. Even the smallest stone adz will make the rock yield if per- 
severing hands hammer away long enough. And time was a commodity 
which this ancient people had in inexhaustible supply. If time is money, 
they had a larger fortune on their sunny mountain shelves than any 
modern magnate; then their riches were as plentiful as the stones in 
the walls of Morongo Uta. And in this philosophic mood, looking at 
the ruins of the village shimmering in space between sea and sky, one 
could well imagine that this was the golden castle of the fairy tale, 
beyond seven seas and seven billowing ridges. 

But the Cave of the Kings in the Anarua Valley was something that 
no one on the island could show us. For the king's henchmen, who 
had known the way, were themselves now hidden in the rock. And the 
people of Rapa Iti did not know the trick of finding secret caves. 

No one here had an afa-a{u. No one knew how to cat chicken tails. 




Valley. But not a sign of life was to be seen, either of 
man or beast. It was impossible to hear a thing. With a hissing noise a 
gushing waterfall lost its hold on the sheer rock above me, and hung 
wavering in thin air for sixty feet before it crashed down into the pool 
where I was swimming. On three sides I was hemmed in by cliff walls 
which rose as high as the fall, cushioned thickly with soft green moss, 
cool and wet and rainbow-tinged from the eternal spray. In the moss 
were glistening little ferns and evergreen leaves, dripping and waving 
as they caught and shed their drops of crystal rain into the deep pool 
which whirled about and vanished over the rim and into the jaws of 
the green forest god down in the valley below. 

Today it was boiling hot in the valley. I reveled in the sheer 
joy of living, lying in the refreshing pool high up in the hills. I ducked 
and drank and at last lay half-floating, completely relaxed, with my 
arms around a stone. There was a magnificent view over the roof of 

the jungle. Down there I had crawled and waded and jumped from 
stone to stone, making my way up the middle of the stream through 
a tangle of live and dead trees which lay across it at all angles, thick 
with moss, ferns, and creepers. 

In this virgin forest no ax could have been at work since the time 
when iron was first introduced into the Marquesas group. The popula- 
tion today lived only under the coconut palms down by the shore in 
the largest valleys. This was true not only here in Nuku Hiva, but 
also in all the other islands of the Marquesas group. It is estimated 
that 100,000 native Polynesians had lived here when the Europeans 
first arrived. Now the number was down to two or three thousand. 
In former times people lived everywhere, and I had seen many over- 
grown house walls peeping through the vegetation as I made my 
way up the stream. But now I had the whole of Herman Melville's 
famous Taipi Valley to myself, for the little village near the bay 
where our ship lay anchored was hidden behind a distant curve of 
the valley. 

Down there, just around the bend and well up the slope of the 
valley, eleven sturdy red shapes stood motionless in a clearing we 
ourselves had made in the jungle. Eight of them had been standing 
in the undergrowth when we came. But when we raised the other 
three, they looked Christian men in the face for the first time. They 
had lain on their bellies with their faces stuck in the ground ever 
since the days when people came up to the temple to pray and 
sacrifice to these ancestor-gods. When one giant was raised with ropes 
and tackles under its armpits, we saw that it was a monster with 
two heads: the first statue of its kind to be found in the Pacific. 

While Ed mapped the ruins, Bill started excavating in the hope 
of being able to date the old stone figures. Incredible as it was, this 
was the first time an archaeological excavation had been started 
anywhere in the whole Marquesas group with its wealth of ancient 
culture. Only one archaeologist had carried out a field study in the 
islands, and he had done no digging. 

Bill was lucky. Underneath the massive stone platform on which 
the statue stood he found plenty of datable charcoal, which enabled 


My Aty-Atyt Says . . . 

us to compare the age of the local statues with the age of Easter 
Island's. In addition we received a greeting from an old long-ear. 
Maybe he had been honorably buried here, maybe he had been 
sacrificed and eaten by Marquesan cannibals. All that remained of 
him were his large ear-pegs and a handful of crumbling bones 
hidden in a shaft in this masonry platform. Our various carbon-14 
datings in the Marquesas group were to reveal that the oldest statues 
were raised in about 1300 A.D., or some nine hundred years after man 
had first settled on Easter Island. This rules out the theory occasionally 
propounded that the small Marquesas stone figures might be the 
ancestors of the Easter Island giants. 

While we were at work up in the jungle of Nuku Hiva, Arne 
and Gonzalo were busy with a team of diggers among the palms 
on Hiva Oa, an island farther south in the same group. They had 
completed their survey of Raivavae, and we had then examined all the 
stone-statue centers which existed in the islands of the open Pacific. 
Now they had landed on Hiva Oa hoping to obtain an archaeological 
date there, and to make a cast of the largest statue in the Marquesas 
group. This measured only some eight feet from head to foot, and 
was a dwarf by Easter Island standards. They had taken with them 
the expedition's last bags of dental plaster, which we had brought 
for this purpose. We had used up most of our three tons on Easter 
Island, making a cast of a thirty-foot giant to be set up in the Kon-Tiki 
Museum in Oslo, over a grotto filled with cave stones. 

As I lay there in the cool basin, reliving the journey in my mind, 
I suddenly realized to what remarkable extent the lonely outpost 
of Easter Island stood out among the rest of the Polynesian islands as 
a culture center of supreme importance. The eleven grotesque little 
figures in the valley below me, and the handful of others examined 
by Arne in the Puamao Valley on Hiva Oa all the Marquesas 
group had to offer seemed almost incidental and insignificant in 
contrast to the multitude of proud giants erected during the two 
earliest epochs of Easter Island. In fact they seemed by contrast like 
crumbs blown from the rich man's table. It was the same with the 
few figures on Pitcairn and Raivavae. Easter Island, with its deep-rooted 


culture, towered above the rest, a cornerstone in the prehistory of the 
East Pacific. No other island could possibly have usurped the proud 
title: "Navel of the World." 

A modern scholar gives the credit for all that happened on Easter 
Island to its climate. He considers that the comparatively cool weather 
did not encourage love life and indolence as in the other islands, 
and that the lack of trees for wood carving led local settlers to attack 
the rock instead. As to the love life of Easter Island, we heard a 
rather different verdict from some of the sailors on board our ship. 
And if low temperatures and lack of trees suffice to make men raise 
stone monuments, one would expect to see really enormous statues 
left by the Vikings who settled Iceland. But no monoliths in human 
form were ever raised by any of the ancient civilizations of Europe 
or North America, not even among the Eskimos. On the other hand, 
they are found in a continuous belt running from Mexico to Peru 
through the tropical jungles of Central America. 

It does not come natural for just anybody to make for the nearest 
mountainside with a stone in his hand, and set about quarrying the 
solid rock. No one has ever seen a Polynesian do anything of the 
kind, even in the coldest parts of New Zealand. Generations of 
experience in stone carving are normally required for such projects, 
and experience alone is not enough. People with a fanatical urge to 
work and create are needed people of the type of the mayor of 
Easter Island. He was certainly not a Polynesian type, that confounded 
mayor. I could still see him in my mind's eye, standing at the door 
with the whole floor behind him covered with queer figures. Beside 
him, to the left, and on a level with his knees, stood his little invisible 

I shivered, and crawled out of the pool to stretch myself on a 
sun-warmed slab of stone. The misty spray drifting from the waterfall 
settled on me like dew as I lay there dozing, and made existence 
beneath the tropical sun fresh and utterly delightful. In my thoughts 
I was on Easter Island. My thoughts were my a{u-a{u: I could send 
them anywhere I liked, just as swiftly as the mayor's a{u-a{u could 
travel to Chile or to other distant lands. 


My A\U'AJ{u Says . . . 

I tried to visualize the mayor's afa-afa. It was doubtful whether 
he himself had any clear picture of its outward appearance. But behind 
its magic veil it must have been the personification of his own thoughts, 
conscience, intuition, all that could be put together to convey the idea of 
an invisible spirit: something free and unconstrained, without bones, 
which could lead the body to do the strangest things while it lived, 
and still remain behind alone to guard a man's cave when he himself 
and his crumbling bones had vanished. 

When the mayor asked his ai(u-a\u for advice, he stood as still 
and as silent as when he was talking with his dead grandmother, 
who disappeared, along with his own train of thought, the moment 
I allowed myself to speak. He stood deep in meditation, putting 
questions to his own conscience and listening to his own intuition; he 
talked to his al{u-a\u. Name it whatever you will everything in a 
human body that cannot be measured in feet or pounds the mayor 
called it his a\u-a\u. And when he had nowhere else to put it, he let 
it stand by his left knee. Why not? It was always roaming about in 
the strangest places anyhow. 

I felt sorry for my own afa-afa. It had followed me for a year 
as on a leash, without the freedom to wing its way into the unbounded 
universe. I thought I could hear its complaining voice. 

"You're getting stale, and too prosaic," it said. "You're no longer 
interested in anything but dry facts. Think a little more of all the 
romantic aspects of life on these islands in former times. All the 
human destinies. All the things you can't scrape out of the earth with 
a trowel." 

"This is a scientific expedition," I said. "I've lived most of my life 
among scientists and have learned their first commandment: the 
task of science is pure research. No speculation, no attempt to prove 
one thing or another." 

"Break that commandment," said my a\u-a\u. "Tread on their toes!" 

"No!" I replied firmly. "I did that when we came to these islands 
on a raft. This time it's an archaeological expedition." 

"Pooh!" said my a{u-afa. "Archaeologists are human, too. Believe 
me, I've been on hand and seen them!" 


I told my a\u-a\u to be quiet, and splashed a little water at a 
mosquito which had ventured up here into the mist from the fall. 
But my a\u-a\u was there again. It could not restrain itself. 

"Where do you think the red-haired strain on Easter Island came 
from?" it asked. 

"Be quiet/' I said again. "I only know they were living there when 
the first Europeans came. And the mayor is descended from such 
stock. Besides, all the old statues depict men with red topknots. If 
we say any more, we shall no longer be on firm ground." 

"Nor were the red-haired men when they discovered Easter Island. 
If they had been, they would never have got there," said my akji-atyi. 

"I don't want to speculate," I replied, turning over on my stomach. 
"I don't want to say any more than I know." 

"Fine. If you can tell me what you know, 111 add what you don't 
know," said my afy-afyi. And so we were on talking terms, 

"Do you think the red hair, too, was caused by the climate on the 
island?" it continued. "Or what is your explanation?" 

"Nonsense," I said. "People with red hair must of course have landed 
on the island in the past. At any rate, the aboriginal settlers must have 
included some redheads." 

"Were there redheads anywhere in the neighborhood?" 

"On several of the islands. In the Marquesas group, for example." 

"And on the mainland?" 

"In Peru. When the Spaniards discovered the Inca Empire, Pedro 
Pizarro the chronicler wrote that, while the mass of Andes Indians 
were small and dark, the members of the Inca family ruling among 
them were tall and had whiter skins than the Spaniards themselves. 
He mentions in particular certain individuals in Peru who were white 
and had red hair. We find the same thing occurring among the 
mummies. On the Pacific coast, in the desert sand of Paracas, there 
are large and roomy man-made burial caves in which numerous 
mummies have been perfectly preserved. When the colorful, still 
unfaded wrappings are removed, some of the mummies are found 
to have the thick, stiff, black hair of the present-day Indians, while 
others, which have been preserved under the same conditions, have red, 


My AJ(u-AJ(u Says . . . 

often chestnut-colored hair, silky and wavy, as found among Europeans. 
They have long skulls and remarkably tall bodies, and are very 
different from the Peruvian Indians of today. Hair experts have shown 
by microscopic analysis that the red hair has all the characteristics 
that ordinarily distinguish a Nordic hair type from that of Mongols 
or American Indians." 

"What do the legends say? One can't see everything through a 

"Legends?" I said. "They don't prove anything." 

"But what do they say?" 

"Pizarro asked who the white-skinned redheads were. The Inca 
Indians replied that they were the last descendants of the viracochas. 
The viracochas, they said, were a divine race of white men with beards. 
They were so like the Europeans that the Europeans were called 
viracochas the moment they came to the Inca Empire. It is a historical 
fact that this was the reason why Francisco Pizarro, with a handful 
of Spaniards, was able to march straight into the heart of the Inca 
domain and capture the Sun-King and all his enormous empire, 
without the vast and valiant Inca armies daring to touch a hair of 
their heads. The Incas thought they were the viracochas who had 
come sailing back across the Pacific. According to their principal 
legend, before the reign of the first Inca, the sun-god Con-Ticci 
Viracocha had taken leave of his kingdom in Peru and sailed off into 
the Pacific with all his subjects. 

"When the Spaniards came to Lake Titicaca, up in the Andes, they 
found the mightiest ruins in South America Tiahuanaco. They 
saw a hill reshaped by man into a stepped pyramid, classical masonry 
of enormous blocks beautifully dressed and fitted together, and 
numerous large stone statues in human form. They asked the Indians 
to tell them who had left these enormous ruins. The well-known 
chronicler Cieza de Leon was told in reply that these things had been 
made long before the Incas came to power. They were made by white 
and bearded men like the Spaniards themselves. The white men 
finally had abandoned their statues and gone with their leader, 
Con-Ticci Viracocha, first up to Cusco, and then down to the Pacific. 


They were given the Inca name of viracocha, or 'sea foam/ because 
they were white of skin and vanished like foam over the sea." 

"Aha!" said my atyt-aku. "Now that was interesting/' 

"But it proves nothing," said L 

"Nothing," said my afa-a\u. 

I had to plunge into the pool and cool off once more but when I 
came back my a\u-al(u was there again. 

"The mayor came from such a red-haired family, too," it said. 
"And he and his ancestors who had made the great statues on Easter 
Island called themselves long-ears. Is it not strange that they should 
bother to lengthen their ears, so that they hung down to their 

"It's not so strange," I said. "The same custom existed in the 
Marquesas Islands too. And in Borneo. And among certain tribes 
in Africa." 

"And in Peru?" 

"And in Peru. The Spaniards recorded that the ruling Inca families 
called themselves orejones, or long-ears, because they were allowed 
to have artificially lengthened ear lobes, in contrast to their subjects. 
The piercing of the ears to lengthen them was a solemn ceremony. 
Pedro Pizarro pointed out that it was especially the long-ears who were 

"And what does legend say?" 

"On Easter Island it says that the custom was imported. Their 
first king had long-ears with him when he reached the island in a 
seagoing vessel, after having steered for sixty days toward the setting 
sun on a journey from the east." 

"The east? To the east lay the Inca Empire. What does legend 
say there?" 

"It says that Con-Ticci Viracocha had long-ears with him when 
he sailed off westward across the sea. The last thing he did before 
he left Peru was to stop at Cusco in the north on his way from Lake 
Titicaca down to the Pacific coast. In Cusco he appointed a chief 
named Alcaviza and ordered that all his successors should lengthen 
their ears after he himself had left them. When the Spaniards reached 


My A\U'A\u Says . . . 

the shores of Lake Titicaca, they heard from the Indians there too 
that Con-Ticci Viracocha had been chief of a long-eared people who 
sailed on Lake Titicaca in reed boats. They pierced their ears, put 
thick sheaves of totora reed in them, and called themselves ringrim, 
which meant 'ear/ The Indians added that it was these long-ears 
who helped Con-Ticci Viracocha transport and raise the colossal 
stone blocks weighing over a hundred tons which lay abandoned at 
Tiahuanaco." 1 

"How did they maneuver these enormous stones?" 

"No one knows," I admitted. "The long-ears of Tiahuanaco did 
not leave a mayor behind who preserved the secrets; no one who 
could show posterity how the trick was done. But they had paved 
roads as on Easter Island. And some of the largest stone blocks must 
have been carried for thirty miles across Lake Titicaca itself in 
huge reed boats, as they were hewn from a particular kind of stone 
found only in the extinct volcano of Kapia on the other side of the 
lake. Local Indians have shown me the assembly point near the shore 
where gigantic dressed blocks still lie abandoned at the foot of the 
volcano, ready to be shipped across the great inland sea. The ruins of a 
wharf are still there, and the local Indians call it Ta\i Tiahuanaco 
Kama, 'The Road to Tiahuanaco.' Incidentally, the neighboring moun- 
tain they refer to as the 'Navel of the World.' " 

"Now I'm beginning to like you," said my afa-afa. "Now I'm 
beginning to feel happy." 

"But all this has really nothing to do with Easter Island," I said. 

"Wasn't the reed they used for building these boats the Scirpus totora? 
Isn't that the unaccountable fresh-water reed which the Easter Islanders 
planted down in the marshy recesses of their extinct volcanoes?" 


"And the most important plant on Easter Island when Roggeveen 
and Captain Cook came there was the sweet potato, which the Easter 
Islanders called tymara?" 

1 The various Inca legends of their white and bearded predecessors in Peru arc recounted 
on pp. 224-268 of the author's book American Indians in the Pacific. 


Areas Having Large Stone Statues in Human 



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5'one statues 

1 00 Westol Green wich 


"And the botanists have proved that this plant, too, is South 
American, that it can only have come to Easter Island if carefully 
transported by man, and that the same name \umara was also used by 
the Indians in large parts of Peru for exactly the same plant?" 


"Then I've only one more question, and I'll tell you the answer. 
Can we assume that the Incas' predecessors in Peru were seafarers, 
just as we know the Incas themselves were when the Spaniards 

"Yes. We know that they repeatedly called at the Galapagos Islands. 
And we know, too, that large numbers of raft centerboards, with 
carved handgrips, are preserved in the pre-Inca graves of Paracas, 
where the tall, red-haired mummies are found. A centerboard can't 
be used without sails, and a sail can't be used without a vessel. 
A single centerboard in a pre-Inca grave can tell us more about 
the highly developed sailing technique of Old Peru than any 
dissertation or Inca legend." 

"Then I'll tell you something." 

"I won't listen to you. You draw conclusions. You don't stick to 
dry facts. This is a scientific expedition, not a detective agency." 

"Granted," said my a{u-a{u. "But how far would the F.B.I, get 
if they only collected fingerprints without trying to catch the thief?" 
That was a question to which I found no ready answer, and my 
importunate afyt-afyi was off again: 

"All right, forget it. But on Easter Island long-eared men with red 
hair have made long-eared statues with red topknots. Either they did 
it because they were cold, or they did it because they came from a 
country where they were accustomed to playing about with big 
stones and erecting statues. But after them the short-ears came. And 
they were Polynesians, who were not cold and who found enough 
wood on Easter Island to carve all they liked. They carved bird-men 
and models of mysterious spooks with beards and long ears and 
huge curved Inca noses. Where did these short-ears come from?" 

"From the other islands in Polynesia." 


My Aty-Aty Says . . . 

"And where did the Polynesians come from?" 

"Their language shows that they are distantly related to the small, 
flat-nosed people in the Malay Archipelago, between Asia and Australia." 

"How did they get to Polynesia from there?" 

"No one knows. No one has found as much as a single trace either 
there or on any of the alien island territories that lie in-between. Person- 
ally I believe they followed the current along the coast of Asia up to 
Northwest America. In that area the most striking traces are found 
on the islands off the coast, and the enormous-decked double canoes 
there could easily carry men and women on with the same current 
and wind down to Hawaii and all the other islands. One thing is 
certain: they must have reached Easter Island last, perhaps only a 
hundred years or so before the Europeans came," I concluded. 

"Then, if the long-ears came from the east and the short-ears came 
from the west, it must be possible to sail both ways in this ocean?" 

"Of course it's possible. Only it's a thousand times easier one way 
than the other. Look at our own early explorers. Until America was 
found no one possessed the necessary key to the discovery of the 
Pacific Islands. The Europeans had maintained a foothold in Indonesia 
and along the coasts of Asia for a long time without a single ship 
trying to beat her way oceanward against the prevailing wind and 
current into the open Pacific. It was not till Columbus had brought 
them to America that Portuguese and Spaniards pushed on from 
there, with the wind and current at their back, to discover the whole 
west Pacific. 

"Indeed, both Polynesia and Melanesia were first discovered by 
Spaniards who followed the current from Peru on the advice of Inca 
mariners. Even Micronesia, with the Palaus and other islands just 
off the coast of Asia, was first discovered from South America. 
Expedition upon expedition poured into the open Pacific, all from 
America, none from Asia. The ships of the time were not even able 
to return the way they had come across the Pacific. For two centuries 
all the caravels left Mexico and Peru to cross the tropical belt of the 
Pacific westward to the coast of Asia; but to get back to America 
they all had to go north, with the Japan Current following the 

3 6 3 

desolate North Pacific route, well above the islands of Hawaii. We 
should not expect more of Malay canoes or Inca balsa rafts and reed 
boats than of European caravels. 

"Do you remember the Frenchman, De Bisschop, who was ready 
to start on his bamboo raft when we called at Tahiti ? He once tried 
to sail from Asia to Polynesia in a primitive craft. It didn't work. Then 
he tried the opposite way, from Polynesia to Asia. Success, and at a 
spanking pace. Now he's going to try sailing a raft from Polynesia 
to America. Hell have to go a long way down into the cold east- 
bound Antarctic Current. As a European he may withstand the icy 
gales down there. But if he should ever get safely within a few 
hundred miles of the South American coast, he'll have the worst 
part to face, as the eastbound current suddenly turns north. If he can't 
overcome the current he'll start drifting straight back to Polynesia, the 
same way as the Kon-Tit(i raft did, and a solitary American raftsman 
who followed in our wake. 2 It's one thing to go by steamer, or to 
travel with a pencil on a chart. It's quite another to travel in primitive 
craft on the restless ocean." 

I listened for my afa-afa's reply. It had fallen sound asleep. 
"Oh, where did we leave off?" it said, when I shook it awake. 
"Oh, yes, we were talking about the short-ears. They were distant 
relatives of the Malays?" 

"Right. But very, very distant, for they themselves were certainly 
no Malays. On their Pacific wanderings they must have stopped off 
in some inhabited area where they greatly changed their language and 
entirely changed their race. Physically the Polynesians and Malays are 
contrasts in every respect, from shape of skull and form of nose to 
body height and blood type, according to the race experts. Only the 
language experts can point to any relationship at all. That is what 
is so peculiar." 
"Dammit, which of them is a poor fellow to believe?" 

9 We subsequently learned that Eric de Bisschop's raft sent out distress signals and her 
crew was picked up by a warship, while the bamboo raft itself broke up in the fierce 
northbound Humboldt Current before reaching the Robinson Crusoe island of Juan 


My Afa-Afa Says . . . 

"Both of them, as long as they simply put their facts down on 
the table. But neither of them, if they ignore each other and start 
to piece the whole puzzle together on their own. That's the strength 
of pure research," I said. 

"And that's its greatest weakness," said my afa-afa. "In order to 
penetrate ever further into their subjects, the host of specialists narrow 
their fields and dig down deeper and deeper till they can't see each 
other from hole to hole. But the treasures their toil brings to light 
they place on the ground above, A different kind of specialist should 
be sitting there, the only one still missing. He would not go down 
any hole, but would stay on top and piece all the different facts 

"A job for an afo-afo," I said. 

"No, a job for a scientist/' retorted my afyt-afa. "But we can give 
him a useful hint or two." 

"We were talking about a possible link between Malays and 
short-ears," I said. "What would your view be, as an a\u-a\u, if 
language said yes and race said no?" 

"If language suggested that all Americans came from England, 
I'd back the race experts." 

"Let us stick to the Pacific. You're a fool if you ignore the 
conclusions of the language experts. Language just doesn't blow by 
itself with the wind." 

"Language spreads by devious ways," said my a\u-a\u. "It certainly 
can't blow by itself against the wind. And since the Malays themselves 
didn't ever reach Polynesia, something strange must have happened 
en route, whether the migration went east or west, or more indirectly 
by the shores of the North Pacific." 

Far down the valley a solitary horseman was riding. It was our 
expedition doctor returning across the hills from Taiohae Village 
with a bag full of test tubes filled with blood. He had collected 
samples on all the islands where we had been. Chiefs, elders, and 
local authorities had helped him select those who could still be 
considered as pure-blooded. We had sent the samples by air in ice-filled 
thermos bottles from Tahiti to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories 


in Melbourne. Our next consignment would be dispatched by air from 
Panama. The Pinto had taken the first. Never before had living 
blood from the natives of these islands reached a laboratory in such 
a condition that all the hereditary genes could be studied and 
determined. Previously only the A-B-O blood group had been studied, 
revealing that the native tribes of Polynesia lacked the strongly 
hereditary B factor, which is also absent among all American Indians, 
while B is dominant in all the peoples of Southeast Asia, from India and 
China, right through the Malay Archipelago, Melanesia, and Micronesia. 
"I wonder what the blood will tell us about the M-N-S, Rh, and 
other blood groups/* I said to my a{u-a{u. I did not know then that 
Dr. Simmons and his colleagues would expose our samples to the 
most thorough blood analysis that had ever been applied to any 
people up to then. Nor did I know that they would find all the 
hereditary factors directly arguing Polynesian descent from the original 
population of the American continent, and at the same time clearly 
separating them from the Malays, Melanesians, Micronesians, and 
other Asiatic peoples of the West Pacific. Not even my af(u-a{u could 
have told me this in my no, in his wildest dreams. 

I began to feel chilly, and put on my clothes. I glanced for the 
last time up at the cliff where the fall roared and the drops of water 
trickled through the moss. A few yellow hibiscus flowers came 
whirling along with the current and danced over the edge down 
toward the jungle beneath. Now I too was going to descend along 
with the current to the village. That would be far easier going: moving 
water was the early traveler's guide to the ocean, and beyond. 

A few hours later we were all topside, either on the bridge or on 
the afterdeck. Even the engineers had come up to gaze spellbound 
at the scene, as our ship slipped along the precipitous coast and the 
imposing red mountain wall slowly closed on the lovely Marquesan 
valley like a giant sliding gate. We could still see the untamed 
jungle, green and heavy, down the steep slopes of the valley toward 
the sea. A few slim and elegant coconut palms, as though escaping 
from the green army behind, lined the beach, waving a friendly 


My Afa-Aty Says . . . 

welcome to new arrivals and a wistful farewell to those departing. 
But for them, the island showed no culture: but for them all was just 
savage beauty. We drank in the view and the scents. Soon it would 
all blend and blur into a vague shadow on the blue rim of heaven, 
before sinking with the sun into the sea behind us. 

We stood there in the baking sun with cool, scented wreaths of 
flowers round our necks. Following the local custom, we were now 
supposed to throw them into the sea and wish ourselves back to these 
enchanted islands. But we hesitated to do so, every one of us. When 
they went overboard, they would lie drifting astern, marking a full 
stop to our adventure. Twice before I had cast my wreath in farewell 
to this enticing island world of the South Seas, and I had come back 
for the third time. I was not sorry for that. 

There came the first wreaths, floating through the air to the sea. 
From the skipper and the mate up on the bridge. From Thor Junior 
and the mess boy at the top of the highest mast. From archaeologists 
and sailors, from photographer and doctor, from Yvonne and myself. 
Up on the boat deck with us little Anette was standing on a chair, 
peeping over the high rail. She struggled for a while to get the wreath 
off her neck, raised herself on tiptoe, and flung it with all her might 
over the rail and straight down. 

I lifted her down from the chair and looked overboard. There lay 
twenty-three red-and-white wreaths, rocking gaily in our green wake. 
Anette's was not among them. Her little wreath had caught on the 
rail of the deck below. I stood watching it for a few moments. Then 
I went quickly down and flipped it overboard. I did not know why. 
I looked around me satisfied, and went up again to the others. No 
one had seen me. But I distinctly felt someone was laughing. 
"You're as bad as the mayor," said my a\u-al(u. 

Readers who wish to know more of Thor Hcyerdahl's 
theories concerning the origins of the Polynesians 

will find them in his book 
American Indians in the Pacific. 





our expedition, of the strange experiences of a group of 
outsiders who came to look into the ancient history of some of the loneliest 
islands in the world. Although the natives of Easter Island confronted us 
with new and baffling mysteries pertaining to the present day, a great many 
problems of the past were solved, and new facts were added to those already 
known concerning the early history of the eastern Pacific. 

It has not been my intention to burden the reader with more scientific 
details than those required to understand the story of our expedition. For 
the scholar, a special monograph on our findings will be published by the 
School of American Research and the Museum of New Mexico. It is obvi- 
ous that such discoveries as the old image quarry on Pitcairn, miniature 
temples and sculptured tombs in the giant hilltop villages of Rapa Iti, ab- 
original constructions on the summits of the uninhabited Morotiri group, 
unknown temples and stone constructions on Raivavae, and statues of un- 
recorded type in the Marquesas group, combined with numerous carbon 


datings and excavated tools, all provide new scientific information and add 
to our general knowledge of the Polynesian past. Yet the interested layman 
may wonder how much our excavations added to the known history of 
Easter Island, how much they have changed former speculations on early 
human voyages in the vast surrounding ocean. To answer this I give the 
following resume. 

/: Easter Island holds a very special geographical position among all 
the countless islands of Polynesia: it is much farther from Asia and a long 
jump nearer to South America than any other inhabitable speck of land in 
the entire Pacific. This unique location is highly important to the student 
of early Pacific migrations, irrespective of his theories of migratory routes 
and origins. If we presume that the first Pacific explorers set out from Asia, 
then this remote spot must have been the one last discovered, and therefore 
the one with the shortest period of human occupation. If, on the other 
hand, the seafarers came from South America, then Easter Island would be 
the nearest, the first reached, and possessing the oldest culture in all 

Until our carbon samples were analyzed, all datings of the Easter 
Island culture were based on individual theories rather than on archaeolog- 
ical facts. So far, carbon tests had brought no Polynesian community any- 
where back beyond 800 A.D. In fact, Pacific scholars have long agreed 
that Polynesia as a whole was the last major area in the world to be 
settled by man, and that, for a number of reasons, all these islands re- 
mained undiscovered until about 500 A.D. On the specific assumption 
that the migration went from west to east, it has been concluded that the 
islands nearest Asia were first reached and occupied at that time, whereas 
Easter Island could not have been settled until the fourteenth century A.D. 
at the very earliest, and according to many, not until 1500 or 1600 A.D. 
This is not very long before the European arrival in 1722. In such a brief 
period of human occupation there would hardly have been time for 
stratigraphy or deposits on a barren island, and due to these preconceived 
conclusions no one attempted to dig. 

Reversing the approach and assuming, as I did, that people of an- 
other culture, from early South America, had found their way into the 
Pacific before the present islanders, then the time sequence too would be 



reversed, and Easter Island would have been first instead of last. This 
suspicion was verified through actual excavation. Even today we do not 
know just when the first overseas voyager put his foot ashore on Easter 
Island. But we do know, thanks to modern carbon- 14-dating tests, that 
by 380 A.D. (with a possible margin of plus or minus one hundred years) 
organized labor was at work on Easter Island. This is a thousand years 
earlier than it should have been if Easter Island lay last in line. It shows 
that the particular island nearest to South America and farthest from Asia 
was already settled at the time when the first voyagers began to colonize 
the islands of the Polynesian ocean. 

2: Nothing was found to contradict the general opinion that the 
ancestors of the present population reached Easter Island extremely late. 
What we found was that another people was there to receive them. This 
was perhaps our principal discovery. Archaeology revealed a clear-cut 
substratum of two distinct cultural epochs that antedated the final period 
of unrest and decadence concurring with the late arrival of the present 
population. Contrary to former suppositions, the history of Easter Island 
was not a brief explosive bloom of one coherent culture, but a restless 
exchange of three predeveloped cultural systems ending with complete 

_j: Of the countless island settlements in the entire Pacific, Easter 
Island alone was acquainted with the highly specialized masonry technique 
otherwise typical of ancient Peru. If Easter Island were discovered from 
Peru, this distribution would be understandable, and this remarkable 
technique would be as old on the island as the first local colony. But 
the striking parallel to Peru has only been another problem to those who 
assumed that the first Easter Islanders came the other way, where similar 
masonry does not exist. It has, therefore, hitherto been proposed that this 
extraordinary form of masonry was the final and most recent achievement 
on Easter Island, gradually evolved quite independent of the outside world. 
But this preconception too did not stand up to archaeological testing. For 
our excavations revealed that this typical Peruvian type of masonry was 
characteristic of the first settlers on Easter Island, whereas the two subse- 
quent cultural periods yielded superimposed structures of entirely different 
and inferior types. 


4: The same reasoning was almost universal in regard to the Easter 
Island statues. Their purely local style has strengthened the common 
argument that they too are the result of local imagination, evolved inde- 
pendent of the great variety of similar statues in ancient Peru. Our field 
work revealed that the validity of this reasoning was based on inadequate 
information. Deviating types of early local statues were excavated by us 
and also found in rebuilt temple walls. Their discovery upset all existing 
ideas of local style and uniformity. Two of the most unaccountable speci- 
mens displayed more similarity to specialized pre-Inca statues in Tiahuanaco 
than to any other monument on the island or in the entire Pacific. The 
hitherto well-known busts of Easter Island were reduced to a secondary 
product of the island: they belong to the second epoch only, and to com- 
pare them with outside areas was therefore of little avail. But missing 
links were found beneath their base, and these important prototypes had 
been carved by the same first-epoch settlers who had introduced the 
highly specialized form of masonry. 

5: To check the value of the occasionally propounded theory that 
Easter Island was first settled by statue makers from the Marquesas group, 
the basis for a chronological comparison was sought by our expedition. 
Carbon samples were obtained from underneath each of the two great 
statuary platforms in the Marquesas group, revealing that the Hiva Oa 
stone giants were put up about 1300 A.D. and those of Nuku Hiva two 
hundred years later. As opposed to the ancient pre-Inca statues of Peru, 
these Marquesan specimens are therefore of too recent origin to be proto- 
types of the Easter Island giants. On the other hand, by 1300 A.D. the 
fame of the second-epoch stone giants might most likely have spread 
from Easter Island to Hiva Oa. Such a contact would explain how the 
Polynesians of Hiva Oa were later able to repay the visit. For there is 
good traditional evidence to indicate that Hiva Oa in the Marquesas group 
was the home port of the warlike Polynesian seafarers that conquered 
Easter Island and began the third local epoch the last century before the 
coming of the Europeans. At any rate carbon datings reveal that stone 
statues, otherwise characteristic of ancient South America, spread into the 
easternmost fringe of Polynesia in a chronological sequence which again 
puts Easter Island first in line. 



6: Consistent Easter Island traditions insist that Ko tc Ava o IJ(0 
on Poike Peninsula was a man-made defense position made by the "long- 
ears," a people distinct from the present population. Science has disre- 
garded the legend and identified the depression as a purely natural forma- 
tion. Excavations, however, revealed that the natives were right; the 
depression had been skillfully transformed by man into an elaborate de- 
fense position, about 400 A.D. Nothing was found at the bottom of the 
trench to indicate an early war. Poike was therefore probably prepared 
as a place of refuge, like the pare on Rapa Iti, by a precautious and 
industrious people who feared that former enemies would follow in their 
wake. Wind erosion of centuries had been permitted to fill the lower 
portion of the trench when, about 1670 according to our carbon-14 tests, 
a huge pyre was lighted throughout its length. Native tradition insists 
that this pyre was lighted eleven generations ago. Pacific scholars reckon 
an average of twenty-five years to a Polynesian generation, which would 
bring us back to about 1680, only a decade off our own carbon date. 

7: The genealogy of the present Easter Islanders points out certain 
individuals as descendants in direct line from the only surviving male 
long-ear. Traditions among these descendants, concerning the techniques 
employed with the second-epoch statues, were put to various tests, and 
many important practical problems were solved in connection with the 
carving, transport, and erection of the great statues. 

8: During the last decades botanists have been able to prove geneti- 
cally that Peruvian sweet potatoes, Peruvian cotton species, and Peruvian 
gourds have been transported to various Polynesian islands by pre-European 
voyagers. The Easter Island agriculture was based on the extensive culti- 
vation of the Peruvian \umara potato when the first Europeans arrived. 
Another genetic proof of contact was found in the Peruvian totora reed, 
planted in all the crater lakes to serve as a principal raw material for 
building houses and boats, and for mats, hats, and basketry. Illustrations 
of totora-rctd boats with masts and sails were also found among petro- 
glyphs, roof-paintings, and sculptures on the island, and through the aid 
of oral tradition two types of reed vessels were built and tested at sea. 
A tightly tied totora-rccd bundle will have the strength and buoyancy 
of any sturdy log, and reed ships may be constructed in a size feasible 


for any wooden ship, and thus capable of crossing any ocean. 

Pollen borings were made in the totora marshes on Easter Island and 
may, when the laboratory analysis is completed, yield further information 
on the early vegetation of the island. 

9: Solar observations and discoveries in Orongo and Vinapu dis- 
closed that the first-epoch architects, like the ancient Peruvians, had some 
reverence for the sun, as they made solstice observations and oriented 
principal religious structures accordingly. 

10: Fresh blood samples were secured for the Commonwealth 
Serum Laboratories in Melbourne, and disclosed that sereologically even 
the third-epoch population on Easter Island, like their close kin in all the 
rest of Polynesia, conform remarkably with the aboriginal population in 
North and South America, whereas they contrast with the Indonesians, 
Malays, Micronesians, Melanesians, and other southeast Asiatic peoples in 
such important hereditary genes as the A-B-O, M-N-S, and Rh blood 
factors. Nevertheless their language is somehow related to the Malay 
tongue, and a combination of all known facts makes it possible that the 
present Polynesian stock, including the third-epoch Easter Islanders, 
reached their present area from eastern Asia upon a long sojourn on the 
islands off the Northwest American coast, where the Japan Current sweeps 
the shore line with water from the Philippine Sea. A direct diffusion from 
Malay to Polynesian waters is not in accord with the genetic evidence of 
the Polynesian blood. 

//: A number of hitherto unexplored habitation and refuge caves 
were examined on Easter Island, and the existence of secret storage caves 
was verified. The principal contents of the secret caves were small stone 
sculptures, although burials, paper manuscripts, pots, wood carvings, and 
modern trade goods occasionally occurred. The small stone sculptures 
were entirely different from all ancient and modern art hitherto known 
from Easter Island. The ripe, expressive style, complex motifs, and cul- 
tural aspect of these secret Easter Island stone sculptures are without known 
counterpart in any other Polynesian community or in ancient South Amer- 
ica. A dating of these ethnographic artifacts was not possible. But in one 
instance disintegrated totora-tttd mats and packages, showing the same 
age and degree of crumbling into dust, were found to envelope burials 

37 6 


and associated sculptures. The burials in question must at least have 
antedated the introduction of Christianity, with compulsory interment at 
the cemetery, toward the end of last century. Style and motif of a number 
of sculptures clearly indicate an art form surviving from pre-European 
time, whereas others bear every evidence of acculturation. It is very likely, 
as native tradition states, that the whole system of secret caves and the 
custom of hiding transportable art treasures underground began with the 
civil wars. That is, at the close of the second epoch. Even short-ears made 
use of the secret caves. Much may indicate that the system survives today 
as a moderate form of ancestral worship, and that it had a new stimulus 
when missionaries introduced Christianity and cleared the native homes 
for religious symbols at the end of the last century. Although more sincere 
Christians hardly exist, the recesses of the hidden caves permit the accul- 
turated Easter Islander, in the shade of the mighty statues, to pay silent 
respect to the memory of his ingenious heathen predecessors on the island. 




Ahu Tcpcu, 100, 288, 318 ff. 

/l/jw, 92, 100, 105, 106, in 

Aku-Af(u: at Atan Alan's cave, 244-47; 
author's, 15, 169, 196, 204-06, 215, 
320, 354-66; contest of, 291, 294-96; 
Estcvan's, 224-26; mayor's, 169, 172, 
178-80, 206, 210, 222, 268, 354; na- 
tives' attitudes toward, 160, 162-63, 
165-67, 169, 171, 237, 239, 251, 255, 
264-65, 280, 281, 282, 284, 287, 311, 
322-23; rongo-rongo's, 296, 298-99 

Alcaviza, 358 

America, sec Central America, South 

American Indians, see Indians 

Americans on Easter Island, 34-35 

Anakcna: bay, 50, 118; camp, 44, 55-60; 
life at, 62-63, 115-16, 206, 231, 300 

Analola, 238, 274, 275 

Analola's mother, 274, 276-80 

Ana o Kckc, 75-83 

Anaport Valley (Rapa hi), 348 

Anarua Valley (Rapa hi), 348 

Andes Indians, see Indians 

Andes Mountains, 100, 357 

Angata, 102 

Aongatu, 140 

A papa roads, 191 

Archaeology: confiscation of finds pro- 
posed, 202-03, 211-13; on Easter 
Island, 37-38, 60-61, 87-89, 100, 
104-11, 126-28, 159, 220-21; in Mar- 
quesas Islands, 352-53; in Pacific, 17; 
on Rapa Iti, 337, 340, 344 & 

Asia, 99, 363 

Atan, Atan, 173 ff., 210, 233-51, 268, 
288-99, 3 02 ff- 

Atan, Estevan, 233 ff. 

Atan, Jose Abraham, 140 

Atan, Juan, 141, 210, 233, 236, 317-21 

Atan, Pedro, Mayor of Easter Island: a\u- 
al(u, 169, 172, 178-80, 206, 222, 251, 
354-555 and author, 43-46, 50, 52-53, 
58, no, 155-56* 158, I59> 168 ff., 
201 ff., 213, 3<>7-i> 3i5-*7t 3^3-^4; 
contracts cocongo, 267-69; daughter, 
120; descent from long-ears, 132, 140- 
42, 233; family, 301; his caves, 178, 
196, 197, 207-10, 214-16, 221-22, 


269, 272-73, 312-14, 3*7, 
323; leads statue-cutting and raising, 
132-38, 142-51, 171, 179-80; on the 
Pinto, 200-01; wood carvings, 96, 122 

Atan, Salvador, 302 

Atan, Victoria, sec Tahu-tahu 

Atiu, 49 

Atua, 134 

Australia, 200, 363 

Aymara Indians, no 

Behrcns, 29 

Belgians on Easter Island, 38 
Bird-men, 102-03, 134, 155, 161 
Bird-men's Island, sec Motunui 
Bird-men's village, see Orongo 
Bishop Museum (Honolulu), 329 
Bisschop, de, Eric, 364 
Bligh, Captain, 331 
Blood samples, 366 
Boats, see Reed boats 
Bolivia, in 
Borneo, 358 
Bounty, 331, 333 

British, 32-34, 37; see also Cook, Cap- 
Burial customs, 34, 78, 100, 106, 286- 

87, 317, 348-49> 356-57 

CAILLOT, Eugene, 329 
Cannibals, 74~75, 93, 106, 113 
Cave of the Kings (Rapa Iti), 349 
Cave of the White Virgins, see Ana o 

Caves, see under Easter Island, Peru, 

Rapa Iti 

Centcrboards, 334, 362 
Central America, 354 
Ceramics, sec Pottery 
Chicken, baking ceremony, 103, 165, 

178, 245-46, 257, 277, 284, 287, 312, 

317, 319 

Children's trip, 116-21 
Chile, 18, 28, 35, 37, 41, 148, 211, 219 
Chilean: government, 22, 211; Minister 

of Education, 202-03, 212; Museum, 

212; Navy, 21 1 ; see also Sheep Farm 
Christian, Fletcher, 331; Parkin, 331 ff. 
Christianity, 101, 225-26, 286, 301; see 

also Sebastian, Father 
Cocongo (influenza), 219, 222, 264, 

267 ff., 317, 321 

Columbus, 15-16, 363 

Con-Ticci Viracocha (sun-god), 357 ff. 

Cook, Captain, 32-34, 91, 359 

Crematorium, 221 

Curti, Arnaldo, Governor, 48, 59, 62, 65, 

108, 116, 143, 148, 162, 193, 200, 

211, 219, 289 
Cusco, 358 

DITCH, see Iko's Ditch 

Doctor, village, 65, 66, 116, 117, 120, 


Dog sculpture, 207-08 
Domingo, 176, 194 
Dutch explorers, 29-31 

EARS, see Easter Island: natives 

Earth oven, umu, 118, 149, 165, 245- 
47, 250, 277, 300, 347; long-cars', 

Easter Island: airfield proposed, 200; ar- 
chaeology on, 37-38, 60-6 1, 66, 104- 
n, 126-28, 159, 220-21: caves, 66- 
73> 76-83, 154-58, 164-65, i/o, 194- 
96, 207-10, 227, 230, 2*3, 248-51, 
261-64, 269, 270 ff., 285-87, 299-300, 
306, 310, 313-14, 310-21; described, 
15, 19, 26, 44-46, 58-60, 85, 145; 
government of, 43, 48: history and ex- 
plorations of, 1 6, 29-37, 1 06; legends 
<>{< 39* 55, 74~75. 96, 123-26, 182, 
189, 329, 358; living conditions on, 
30, 37; mystery of, 37-38: natives, 29, 
30, 32, 47, 49, 50-60, 63-66, 96-98, 
116-21, 166-68, 273, 282: and Rapa 
Iti, 347; roads, 190; significance as cul- 
tural center, 353; theories concerning, 
75, 354, 356 ff., 369-376; wood carv- 
ing and art on, 40-42, 96-97, 154-58, 
322; see also Long-ears, Short-cars, 
Statues: Easter Island 

Ellis, missionary, 328 

Elvrrum, 28 

Englert, see Sebastian, Father 

English on Easter Island, 34-35 

Enliquc, see Ika or Tcao 

Eroriii, 66 ff., 99, 107, 166, 176, 208 

Estcvan, see Pakarati or Atan 

Eugcnio, Father, 75, 101 

Expedition ship: crew, 28: landing at 
Easter Island, 56-58; preparation of, 
21-23; tour of Island, 116-20 



FATU HIVA, 1 68 

Feather work, 294, 304, 305 

Ferclon, Edwin (Ed), 27, 102, 103, 105, 
108, 159, 162, 163, 181, 182, 185, 
1 88, 190, 211 ff., 219, 236 ff., 270, 
273. 302, 334, 346, 352 

Fitftieroa, sec Gonzalo 

Franco- Belgian expedition, 38 

Fred Olscn Shipping Line, 19 

French Colonial Ministry, 339 

French on Easter Island, 33-34 

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, 17, 18, 252, 

Gjessing, Dr., 28, 48, 116, 119, 120, 200, 

226, 231, 232, 269, 300, 365, 367 
Gonzales, Don Felipe, 31, 32n. 
Gonzalo Figucroa, 28, 39, 48, 51, TOO, 

no, 133, 203, 206, 2ii ff., 218, 

269 ff., 274, 307, 332, 335, 353 
Greenland Trawler, sec Expedition ship 
Gronmyr, steward, 28 

HAIR, 200 

Ilakluyt Society, }2n. 

llanau eepe, sec Long-ears 

Hanatt niomo^o, sec Short-ears 

Han.tja Hemu, 274 

Hanga-o-Tco Valley, 164, 195, 255 

Hanga Piko, 206 

Hangaroa, 45, 68, 75, 117, 162, 199, 239, 

269, 286, 289, 325 
Hanken, Cook, 28 
Haoa: Andres, 100-01, 288-99, }oi ff,; 

family, 724; Juan, the Wizard, 290- 

99, 301 fT., 310-1 1 
Haoa, Marta, 31 r 
Hare Kai Hiva, 140, 233 
Hartmark, Arnc, Captain, 28, 199 #> 


Hats, see Statues: topknots 
Jlatui, 261 
Hau-hau bu.shes, 183 
Hawaii, 363 
Henderson Island, 333 
Hcyerdahl, Anette, 27, 41, 45, 46, 87, 
133, 138, 141, 146, 153, 231, 310, 

334, 367 

Hcyerdahl, Thor, Sr.: aty-afci of, 15, 
169, 196, 204-06, 215, 291, 294-96, 
320, 322, 354-66; at Ana o Kekc, 75- 
83; arrives at Easter Island, 39-42: at 
Atan Atan's cave, 241-51; at Bird- 
men's Island, 101-04; early explora- 

tions, 16-17; at Lazarus' cave, 254-64; 
leaves Easter Island, 325-26; legend of 
Senor Kon-Tiki, 104-05, no, 154, 
I 57> I59 J 63, 168-76, 258; and may- 
or, 43-46, 50, 52-53, 58, 1 10, 155- 
56, 158, 159, 168 ff., 201 ff., 213, 307- 
I0 > 3i5~ I 7> 323-24; plans Easter 
Island expedition, 18-24; at Rapa Iti, 
327 ff. 

Heyerdahl, Thor, Jr., 23, 28, 45, 162-63, 
185 ff., 299, 367 

Heyerdahl, Yvonne, 27, 41, 45, 60, 83, 
120, 133, 138, 153, 154, 158, 168, 173. 
232, 237-38, 299, 367 

Hiva Oa, 353 

Hotuiti Bay, 166 

Hotu Matua, 140 ff., 189, 325; his 
caves, 55, 135, 136, 232; his site at 
Anakena, 44, 50, 56-58, 61, 118; his 
song, 138, 176 

Humboldt Current, 329, 364^ 


Ika, Alberto, 164, 170-71, 255, 280 ff. 

Ika, Daniel, 164, 276-80, 281 

Ika, Enlique, 280 ff. 

Iko's ditch, 123-28, 140, 347 

Inaki-Luki, 124, 140 

Incas, 17, 100, 105, 107, no, 181, 186, 

220, 333, 356 ff. 
Indians: Andes, 356-57; American, 181, 


Indonesia, 99, 363 
Influenza, see Cocongo 

JACQUIER, Henri, 335, 336, 338 

Japan Current, 363 

Juan Fernandez Island, 35, 364^ 


Kapia (volcano), 359 

Kasimiro, 62-63, 73, 101 ff., 230 

Katiki (volcano), 76 

Kioc, 156 

Kon-Tiki Museum (Oslo), 353 

Kon-Tiki raft, 16 ff., 49, 107, 234, 299, 

364; expedition, 334 
Kon-Tiki, Senor, sec under Heyerdahl, 

Thor, Sr. 
Kon-Tiki, sun -god, sec Con-Ticci Vira- 

Kttmara, 359, 362 

3 8i 

LANGUAGE, theory of, 365 

La Perouse, 32-34, 93; Bay, 169 

Larsen, Second Officer, 28 

Lavachery, 38 

Lazarus, 150, 160, 163, 168 ff., 194-96, 
203, 204, 207, 209, 213, 229-30, 
231 ff., 251-65, 269, 278, 318 

Lea, 336, 337 ff- 

Legends: Easter Island, 39, 55, 74-75* 
96, 123-26, 182, 189, 329, 358; Inca, 
357-58, 3595 Mangareva, 333-34; Rapa 
Iti, 329. 348 

Leon, Cicza dc, 357 

Leonardo, shepherd, 95, 176 

Leper station (Easter Island), 65 

Lobster: catching, 278: sculpture, 208, 
269-70, 287 

Long-cars, 74-75, 123-28, 140; descend- 
ants of, 131 ff., 209: ditch, 123-28, 
140, 347; origin of, 358-64 

MAENGO, sec Pottery 

Mahute bushes, 183 

Make-Make, 64, 130 

Malay Archipelago, 363 

Malays, 364 ff. 

A/000, 169, 172, 233, 241, 245, 289, 

292 ff. 

Mangareva, 333-34* 347 
Mariana, 67 ff., 95-96, 99, 166, 176 
Marquesas Islands, 16, 99, 352 ff. 
Mars (planet), 242 
Matamca (Mars), 242 
Mata te Paina, 31 1 

Mayor of Easter Island, sec Atan, Pedro 
Melanesia, 363 ff. 
Melville, Herman, 352 
Metraux, Alfred, 38, 126, 137 
Mexico, in, 294; see also Incas 
Micronesia, 363 ff. 
Miro wood, 59, 145, 33 2 ~33 
Missionaries, 36, 64, 328 
Moai-fyva-kava, 160, 161, 217 
Mocrenhout, 329 

Mofo (cayman), 196-97, 204, 208 
Moko Pingci, 1 24 
Money, 33<>-37 34> 343 
Morongo Uta, 327, 334 ff., 337 ff. 
Mostny, Dr., 41 
Motuha, 140 
Motunui (Bird-men's Island), 101-04, 


Motu Tavake, 261 
Mu, 190 

Mulloy, Dr. William (Bill), 27, 61, 74, 
105, 107-08, 141, 162, 172, 203, 220, 
254, 256, 263, 269, 273, 312 ff., 318, 
330, 334, 337 ff.i 352 

Mummies, 356-57, 362 

NAHOE, Juan, Tumu, 293-99, 301, 305, 

Navel of the world, 29, 109, 219, 354, 


Navy's sheep farm, see Sheep farm 
Nent maidens, 75, 78, 80 
New Mexico, 134: Museum, 27 
New Zealand, 332, 354 
Nicholas, 62, 230 
Norway, 237: Foreign office, 22 
Nuku Hiva, 352 ff. 

OHO-TE/1, 141 

Olav, Crown Prince, 22 

Olscn, Chief Engineer, 28, 145 

Omohi, 261 

Ore /ones, see Long-cars 

Oroi, 189 

Orongo, 102, 108, 15^, 162, 163, 181, 

1QO, 219 

Ororoina, 124, 131, 140, 141, 209, 210, 

2 33 
Oslo (Norway), 353 

PACIFIC OCEAN, archaeology in, 16- 
17* *9i 37. 59, 60, 329, 352; currents 
in, 16, 18, 19, 40, 329, 363-64; ex- 
ploration of, 363-64 

Pac-pae, 168 

Pakarati, Estcvan, and his wife, 154-58, 
163, 194, 196, 20^, 204, 222-28, 
270 ff. 

Pakarati brothers, 183, 192-9$: Santiago, 
281-84; Timotco, 277-80 

Pakomio, Pedro, 102-04, 109, 325-26 

Palau Islands, 363 

Panama, 332 

Paoa, Rosa, 31 1 

Papeete, Museum, 335 

Paracas, 356, 362 

Pare, 346 

Pea, 124, 140 

Pena, Prof., 201 ff., 206 ff., 211-13, 

Penguin sculpture, 252 

Peru, in, 18 1, 182, 190, 220, 311, 334, 
356 ff.; caves, 356; raids on Easter 
Island, 35-36 



Petit-Thouar, 184 
Picture-writing, see Rongo*rongo 
Pinto, 178, 179, 198-201, 203, 206, 

215 ff. 

Pipi Horeko, 124 
Pitcairn Island, 331-33, 353 
Pizarro, Francisco, 357 
Pizarro, Pedro, 356 fi. 
Poike Peninsula, 76, 81, 123, 124, 126, 

Polynesian Islands, 18, in, 197, 208, 

209, 220, 360 ff. 
Popoi, 337 34* 344, 345 
Fora, see Reed boats 
Porotu, 142 
Portuguese, 363 
Pottery: Easter Island, 100-01, 234, 289, 

306-07, 320; Galapagos, 99 
Puamao Valley (Hiva Oa), 353 
Pueblo Indians, 134 
Piif^ao, see Statues: topknots 
Puna Pau (volcano), 95, 241 

RAAKAU, 249 

Raimundi Uki, 228 

Raivavae, 335, 353 

Rano Aroi, 59, 238 

Rano Kao, 59, 108, 129, 145, 159, 162, 
182 ff. 

Rano Raraku: author sleeps at, 129-31; 
described, 5-86, 90 ff., 96, 103, 106, 
1 08, TII; mentioned, 164, 207, 221, 
253; reeds in crater lake, 183; statue- 
cutting experiment at, 131-38; statue- 
raising experiment at, 142-51 

Rapa Iti: archaeology on, 337, 340, 344- 
46, 352; caves on, 348-49; described, 
327-29, 334, 346, 351; legends of, 
329, 348; natives, 338-43; theories 
of history of, 347; see also Morongo 

Rapa Nui, 29; see also Easter Island 

Rapu, 321, 330 

Raroia, 293, 339 

Reao, 49 

Reed, archaeologist, 17 

Reed huts, 68 

Reeds, 182, 185, 187; boats and sculp- 
tures, 181-83, 188-95, 222, 311; sec 
also Totora 

Religion, see Sebastian, Father 

Ringrim (car), 359 

Riroroko, 270 

Roads, sec under Easter Island 

Rock paintings, 103, 162, 181, 193 
Roggeveen, 29, 32n., 61, 75, 91, 106, 359 
Rongo-rongo (hieroglyphics), 101, 164- 

65, 166, 212, 218, 255, 280, 281; 

books, 234, 240-41, 295-96; tablets, 

63, 3M 

Roussel, Father, 189, 190 
Routledge, Katherine, 37-38, 63, 75, 88, 

96, 102, 103, 126, 137 
Royal Son, see Ika, Enlique 
Russians at Easter Island, 35 

SAN CARLOS ISLAND (Easter Island), 


Sanchez, Eduardo, 218, 286 

Sanne, First Mate, 28, 311, 317 

Santiago University (Chile), 28 

Schjcrven, Erling, 28 

Schoolmaster, Easter Island, 116-20 

Scirpus totora, see Totora 

Sebastian, Father, 47-49, 63, 66, 67, 75, 
90, 99, 101, 102, 107, 108, in, 116, 
143, 182, 186, 193, 203, 208, 211, 

219, 301-02; and author, 50, 59, 
121-22, 131, 166-67, 183, 204, 205, 
235, 286, 321; and expedition, 62, 63, 
126; and virgin's cave, 75-78, 83 

Selling, Olof, Prof., 186 

Sheep farm, naval, 44, 45, 216, 238 

Short-ears, 74-75, 123-28, 145, 209, 362- 


Simmons, Dr., 366 
Skipper, see Hartmark, Arne, Captain 
Skjolsvold, Arne, 17, 28, 100, 108, 159, 

163, 188, 190, 221, 253, 282, 286, 

325, 330, 332, 335, 353 
Slave raids, sec Peru 
Small-pox epidemic, 36, 76 
Smith, Dr. Carlylc (Carl), 27, 76, 100, 

105, 126, 133, 299, 346 
Snake sculpture, 208, 256 
Societe des tudes Occaniennes, 335, 339 
Society Islands, 16 
Solar observatory, ceremonial, 220 
South America, 16, 18, 99, 185, 200, 

220, 294, 362 

Spaniards: on Easter Island, 31-32, 76, 

185; in South America, 357, 363 
"Statue-overthrowing time,*' 139-40, 141 
Statues, distribution of, in Pacific, 360-61 
Statues, Easter Island: carving and rais- 
ing of, 88-91, 94, 1 06, 132-38, 142- 
51, 171, 179-80; dates of, 221; de- 
scribed, 1 6, 26, 30-31* 33-34, 86-88, 


92, 107-11, 132, 1 88; mystery of, 16, 
37-38, 74; purpose of, 33; theories 
concerning, 89-91, 111-13; topknots, 
88, 91, 93, 95, 191-92 

Statues, Marquesas Islands, 352-53 

Stokes, 329 

Stone carvings: on Easter Island, 154-58, 
207-08, 216-18, 222, 224, 232, 249- 
50, 252, 261, 262-63, 276, 186-87, 
309, 310, 311, 313, 319-21; on Rapa 
Iti, 348 

Stone ovens, 345, 346, 347; sec also 
Earth oven 

Strike, on Easter Island, 216, 217; on 
Rapa Iti, 34i~44 

Sunken continent, theory of, 20, in, 190 

Sun worship, 29, 220, 357 

Sweet potatoes, 30, 33, 150, 245-47, 
359; sec also Kumara 

TABOOS, 164, 168-70, 172, 173, 227, 

323; sec also Aty-Aty 
Tahiti, 16, 29, 34, 49, 104, 219, 221, 

234* 293, 331, 335-36, 338, 339, 34i, 

344, 364, 365; Bishop of, 36 
Tahu-tahu (Victoria Atan), 180, 234, 

235 ff,, 241, 245 ff., 272-73, 279, 

292, 301, 304, 308, 312 
Taipi Valley (Nuku Hiva), 351 
Tan gat a mantt, 40, 41, 46, 160, 161, 250 
Taro, 337, 345, 346 
Teao, Enlique, 236, 239, 241, 251, 271- 

72, 299 ff. 
Teave, 286 
Tei Tctua, 16 

Temples, sec Rapa Iti: Archaeology 
Tepano, 186-88 
Tcpeu, 203 
Tc Pito Kura, 221 
Tcrai Matcata, 293 
Tcriieroo, Chief, 16, 293, 335 
Terraces on Rapa Iti, 344-45 
Thomas, 19-20 
Thomson, Paymaster, 39, 189 
Tiahuanaco, no, 181, 207, 220, 357, 359 
Tikaroa, 293 
Tiki (man-god), 16, 64 
Titicaca, Lake, 107, no, 181, 182, 192, 

194, 357, 359 

Toatoa, 124 

Topknots, see under Statues 

Toro Miro, see Miro wood 

Totora reeds, 185, 186, 273, 274, 281, 

286, 294, 359 

Tuamotu Islands, 16, 49, 309 
Tuki, Moiccs Secundo, 311 
Tumu, 293; sec also Nahoc, Juan 
Tupa, King, 333-34 
Tupac, 333-34 
Tuputahi, 140 
Tuu-ko-ihu, King, 160 

UHI, 140 

Umu, see Earth oven 

Umtt takjapu, see Chicken, baking cere- 


Uru, 182, 185 
Uru Indians, no 

VAI, 124 

Vaihu, 283 

Vai-mataa, 261 

Vai Po, 1 68 

Vai-tara-kai-ua, 277 ff. 

Vaitea, 59, 238, 275 ff, 

Vahjo, ama, 189 

Vat(a pocpoc, 190, 195 

Valley of Kings, see Anakena Bay 

Vancouver, Captain, 328 

Varoa Tikaroa, 293 

Vikings, 18 

"Village skipper,*' see Atan, Estcvan 

Vinapu, 105, 108, 141, 171, 207, 220, 

Viracochas, 357 

Virgin's cave, see Ana o Kckc 

WALL TERRACES, 3 3~34, 44, 56, 105, 

no, in, 346 

Whales, sculptures of, 172-76, 320 
White race in Polynesia, 75, 141, 356-62 
Wilhelm, Ambjorg, 19-20 
Wilhclm, Prof., 201, 211, 216 
Windmills, 216 
Wizard, see Haoa, Juan 
Wood carving, see under Easter Island 
Wyoming University, 27 





(Continued from front flap) 


*-* Our permanent anchorage 

Statues (of 
Statues oj 

Important temple J 
Cave visited by member* 
Presumed location of un< 

Before the author's expedition no scientist 
been able to penetrate the natives' all-powc 
taboos. But "Senor Kon-TikiV fame had 
ceeded him: to the superstition-ridden na 
he was a mighty ancestor returned from the 
of their island's greatness. Month by month 
legend of his personal "guardian spirit"- 
afa-afo grew, until at last he gained 
natives* confidence and they revealed to hinr 
entrances to their family caves. 

Bit by bit the pieces of the puzzle fall 
place: the origin of the statues, the secre 
the caves, the story of the ancient stone-car 
"long-ears" with their pale skin and red 
the cannibalism and the civil wars tha* 
islanders endured. Filled with color and e: 
ment, the book transports you into the mic 
a human drama of extraordinary interest. 
follow Thor Heyerdahl's hazardous explon 
across tortuous cliffs and into the bowels c 
earth, through passages hardly large enou 
admit a human body . . . and you mee 
strange, suspicious natives who inheritec 
closely guarded secrets of their ancestors. 

AKU-AKU is, in short, a modern scientif 
tective story of first rank, and an advent 1 
enthralling as any work of 'fiction. Alre' 
has won acclaim in Norway, Sweden, 
mark, Finland, and Great Britain. 

London Daily Mail 

". . . The most enthralling, exciting and ' 
tant authentic record of purposeful adver 
have read for many years. . . ." 

Howard Spring in Country Life 

"His speculations are fascinating and th 

of the exploration has never a dull page. 


New York Chtcaf* * S* I